Cordelia Bright and the Headless Orphans – Chapter Eleven – Wedding Day

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The story so far. Cordelia Bright has agreed to marry the wicked Sir Jasper De Jasper, but only to prevent him from closing down the St Justus home and sending the headless orphans to the workhouse. The miserable Sister Odium is angry and jealous. She was spurned and ridiculed by Sir Jasper when she suggested that she herself would be a more suitable bride for him….

At last the day had arrived. The guests were filing into Father O’Shaughnessy’s church to the sound of old Billy Haigh pumping enthusiastically at his organ. At the front Sir Jasper De Jasper licked his lips with anticipation, and exchanged a joke with his best man and valet, Jim Kilvert.
The congregation was sparse. Many of the supporters of the St Justus Home who had turned up for the recent charity evening had decided not to attend, harbouring a dislike for Sir Jasper and finding the idea of celebrating his marriage distasteful. Matron Blessed was to accompany Cordelia into the Church with the three female headless orphans as bridesmaids. This left Sister Odium in charge of the three boys, a responsibility which seemed to do nothing to alleviate her displeasure. She showed this by noisily shoving them into the church at the last possible moment, making a clatter and a fuss as she settled them into the very back pew.
As soon as they were seated, Matthew took out his blowpipe and tin of darts, tapping one against the other and shaking in rhythm to the sound of Haigh’s Organ. Tap… Tap… Tap…. Chick! But this time when Sister Odium made a grab, there was no escape, he was penned in between her and his two pals, and couldn’t prevent her from taking his playthings. With a satisfied smirk, she placed them inside her clutch bag and snapped it shut. “I wouldn’t expect the return of those in a hurry” she gloated.
Then the sound of the bridal march struck up and Cordelia entered from the back of the church, arm in arm with Matron Blessed. The effect of her beautiful dress, the floral wreath around the top of her veiled head, and the long train, carried by three headless girls in satin outfits was spoiled somewhat by the fact that she was shaking and shuddering with silent sobs. Slowly, the procession made its way up the aisle, and Cordelia took her place next to the visibly excited Sir Jasper.
“Dearly beloved,” commenced Father O’Shaughnessey, “we are gathered here today to witness the joining of these two people in holy matrimony…”
As he spoke Sister Odium reddened and begun to rock to and fro in the pew. When he got to the part asking any person who knew of any lawful impediment to the marriage to “speak now, or forever hold their tongue,” she turned purple, and almost looked as though she would burst with rage. She spluttered audibly and flecks of spittle burst forth from her clenched lips. But she said nothing.
The service continued, the Father’s gentle but strong voice in contrast to the nervous whisper of Cordelia and the confident swaggering tone of Sir Jasper.
At last the point was reached where the ring was placed on Cordelia’s finger, and the priest spoke the words “I now declare you man and wife.” A hush descended on the church.
“You may now kiss the bride”
Grinning, and sweating profusely, Sir Jasper lifted Cordelia’s veil. With hungry eyes he leaned towards her lips, moistening them with his tongue before puckering up. But just as he was about to make contact, he stopped clapped a hand to his neck, and fell to the floor.
A gasp of horror went up throughout the Church. Father O’Shaunessey dropped to his knees next to the stricken man, and started to check his pulse.
“Has he fainted? Is it a stroke? asked Kilvert with a furrowed brow.
The priest looked up with a grave face.
“It’s worse than that, he’s dead, Jim”

What has happened to Sir Jasper? What will happen to Cordelia? What fate will befall the headless orphans? Find out in the thrilling final episode. Tomorrow!

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