Steeped In Sin: An Orphan's Tale

  • March 14, 2006 at 2:33 am #1886

    London, 1858

    The Season was upon them again. Dapper gentlemen, dashing officers, and elegant ladies strolled down sidewalks, traveled by carriage from one appointment to another, and trotted on horseback through the park. It was their time to see and be seen. Not a one of them would normally notice an orphan of St Ann’s in the drab grey uniform of the unfortunate. But it was no ordinary orphan child that caught the attention of the rakish young Lord Farringdon.

    Among a party of six or seven, Lord Farringdon led the group with the eldest Miss Crawley on his arm. Just ahead of them on the sidewalk the child walked, her head bent down meekly, small hands clasping a heavy wicker basket laden with items from the market. Truthfully, it was not the child or her situation that piqued the lord’s interest. It was the single curl that had escaped the rag knotted round her head. A curl that now caught the sunlight, springing charmingly against a shoulder blade made nearly visible by the taut, threadbare fabric of the orphan’s grey dress.

    “I say,” Lord Farringdon remarked to Miss Crawley, unable to remove his gaze from the smallish creature before them, “Doesn’t that child seem to have the loveliest hair?”

    Emma Crawley, a willowy blond thing with wide blue eyes, had been far too preoccupied laughing at something John Bertram had been saying. She turned a pleasant countenance upon her companion and said smilingly, “What was that, Lord Farringdon?”

    “Do you know,” he began again, widening his address to the group at large, “I’ve a mind to think she’s a faery, disguised to walk amongst us. What say you, Downs?”

    From the back of the group, William Downs craned his neck over the heads of ladies and gents to catch a glimpse of the supposed fey thing toddling over the walk ahead. “Perhaps, my lord. Though we may never know. I have heard tell that faeries are extremely difficult to catch.”

    The crowd was closing in upon the orphan now. The women tittered behind their fans.

    “A test, then,” Lord Farringdon announced in a conspiratorial whisper. Turning to gather the group of friends, he grinned to them all beneath the brim of his hat.

    “To see if she’s a faery?” asked Miss Cassandra Elton with a giggle.

    “No,” Farringdon replied, still grinning. “I am certain that she is. I wager every man here a pound and every woman here a dance at Lady Goddard’s ball tomorrow night. I will capture the creature, if only for a moment. And I will go down in history as the only man who has ever seen one of their kind up close and lived to tell the tale.”

    A chorus of laughter answered his boast and a smattering of applause. With a flourish and a bow, he dismissed himself from the group. Long strides brought him to the orphan’s side in a heartbeat. His compatriots continued to follow just a few paces behind.

    “That basket of yours looks awfully heavy, child,” he said softly, drawing the attention of the girl that struggled to make her way forward with her load. “Perhaps you should allow me to carry it. Just for a moment.”

    The child made no move to halt her steps or hand over her basket. A faultless smile was turned up to him briefly, and he found she had the most remarkable innocence shining in her wide hazel eyes.

    “I am blessed with work, sir.”

    The sprite could have been no more than seven years old, and the basket probably weighed as much as she did.

    “Then share your blessings with me, girl.” A hand was held out to take the basket’s handle and the child looked up with questions in her eyes to find the most encouraging smile. Surely a man with such a handsome expression of face and compassion in his eyes was part angel. Ceara had a fleeting thought that perhaps God had sent this man as a sort of test. She had no right to be selfish and not accept his offer of kindness.

    Despite her protestations, the gentleman insisted upon accompanying her all the way to Whitechapel and the steps of St Ann’s.

    From a second storey window, Sister Beatrice kept a watchful eye on the comings and goings of St Ann’s charges. The hawkeye gaze narrowed to see little Ceara come upon the orphanage’s steps escorted by a man of some discernable nobility. As she watched, the gent returned the child’s basket to her. Then he knelt to the girl’s eye-level and produced a coin. The sister’s hands gripped one another tightly as she prayed for the girl to cast out the devil sure to be inside her and resist the temptation this man offered her. To her astonishment, Ceara unknotted the dull grey rag that bound her curls to her head and let fly the sunfire silk. She took the coin with an awkward country curtsey and the gentleman tipped his hat at her before the girl turned to run up the steps into the orphanage, her basket in tow.

    As if he felt another pair of eyes upon him, Lord Farringdon’s gaze canted up to the second storey and his smile faltered briefly. A frown had darkened Sister Beatrice’s severe features. He tipped his hat at the sister and turned away to join his friends who waited upon the walk.

    Sister Beatrice turned away from the window. It seemed their kindness had not been enough to stamp out the sin coursing through that child’s veins. They had been wary from the moment they saw the fine glossy curls grow from pale to bright fire. It was time to employ more rigorous measures to ensure that the child was clear that her life was forfeit unto God. The sisters of St Ann’s would not allow the Devil to take her. Not without a fight.

    March 14, 2006 at 3:32 am #2463

    Do so dig it, you. I'm waiting for them to shave her bald.

    March 14, 2006 at 8:00 am #2464

    A very enjoyable continuation! More, please.

    March 15, 2006 at 4:18 am #2465

    I agree with Octavius, more

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