General Fiction posted November 7, 2017 Chapters:  ...4 5 -6- 


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Trouble in the Cottage

A chapter in the book Orphan Mollie

The Matron Arrives

by Drew Delaney




Background
1846 England - PeabodyĆ¢??s Cottage is home to thirty orphaned children. Mollie May happens upon a conversation concerning the death of two-year-old Sal. Mrs Jellybe dislikes Molli
















Previously: Wiping her tear-stained face and nose with the sleeve-edge of her nightdress, she opened her swollen, sore eyes. Her forehead and temples ached with a pulsing pain which made her want to keep her eyes closed, but in that brief moment, she could see a stream of light brimming over the windowsill.






The Matron arrived earlier than planned, and unannounced. Black, shabby ribbons hung over the door -- the very thing that troubled her when she took the time to navigate her own affairs.

She hired Mrs Jellybe as a way out of this poverty stricken district when she could no longer bear to hear, smell or taste the remnants of society. These unwanted and discarded children lived to eat the very crumbs she managed to put aside and accumulate.

The only reason she was more considerate and agreeable, in comparison to Mrs Jellybe, was that she passed her responsibilities on to someone else while she involved herself in her own pursuits and pleasures. Oh, she did show a kind streak in her demeanour most times, however, off she would go with her lowly, (most of the time) intoxicated, swain to partake in the realm of night living and all it entailed.

Mrs Peabody looked quite distinquished upon her arrival, with her hair all shiny and coiled, heaps of curls bouncing this way and that. Her bonnet, tied under her chin with blue ribbons, dangled at the back of her neck. Dressed in a hazy blue,velvet dress with a bustle at the back, the low cut style drew attention to her full carriage.

The woman truly appeared a bit out of place in this lowly world of pickpockets, ragged-clad children and dumpy, gray surroundings. The thing that struck Mrs Jellybe more than anything was the odour that penetrated the room once the good woman had entered. You'd have thought she hauled along with her a flower patch of gardenias and lilacs, so refreshing was the aroma.

"Mrs Jellybe? Tell me the truth. It's not catchy, is it?" If she had been informed positively, the thought entered her mind to escape through the back door and hail another cabriolet to take her back to where she had just come.

"No, Mrs Peabody. Nothin' like t'at. Remember Little Sal? How she coughed and gagged continuously?"

Mrs Peabody relaxed her shoulders, and collapsed on a cushioned chair once she felt the strain of worry leave her.

"I 'ad Wigglesmit' come 'eer to examine 'er. Some'ow, t'at wee lass got 'old of the little green bottle and emptied all its contents the good apothecary prescribed 'er. Poor lttle mite! She must 'ave been sorely hungered. Wigglesmit' is at t'is very minute speaking with the Vicar." Mrs Jellybe took on a sad, morbid facial expression and skillfully produced a couple of drops of compassion to show her remorse, although nothing could be farther from the truth.

'We had better prepare for the Vicar and his good wife. I don't want them assuming the child was not properly cared for.'

'Ooo, everyt'ing is in good order, Mrs Peabody. No need to fret and worry yerself. I sponged 'er clean as can be, and dressed 'er in the best we 'ad available. Come. Put ye mind at ease. Ye can see f'er yeself.'

Mrs Peabody followed Mrs Jellybe up the rickety stairs, grabbing onto the wobbly handrail with one hand, the other hand occupied lighting her footsteps with a half-melted, wax-dripping candlestick. Their own shadows accompanied them, but the images appeared to enlarge looking about ready to pounce on them, at any given moment.

The door creaked open as Mrs Jellybe gave it a wee shove once the skeleton key unlocked the latch. All at once, a body came flying through the air at Mrs Peabody. She nigh collapsed at the proceeding thinking the ghost of the dead child had come to claim her to the unseen world. A shrill scream parted the lips of the Matron in horror.

Mrs Jellybe realized her failure at not warning the Matron. Why had she thought anything otherwise might occur? After all, Mollie warned her how afeard she would be once the candlelight disappeared and then to be left alone with little Sal. Not that little Sal would harm her, mind you. Being left in a room alone with Mrs Jellybe would have been more terrifying knowing how mean and bitter the Matron's Assistant was known to be.

Now, once the Matron collected herself and took in a much-needed breath, she glared at Mrs Jellybe with an eye of fury. Words could not be found to inquire the proceedings.

'Wha ... what is this all about?" Twisting and turning to renew her comportment, flicking her garments into proper bearings, and blotting the sweat that accumulated on her brow with the backside of her longish sleeve, the explosion of wrath rose to such a degree, a steam of sorts transpired into the atmosphere like that from a pot of water boiling intensely.

Mrs Jellybe seized Mollie by the arm, yelling and cursing like a man might at the child blaming her for the scene in progress.

'Why is this child in here ... in ... this room? Tell me at once.' She grabbed the trembling arm of the child. 'Come, you must go to bed immediately.' With a slight shove toward the door, Mrs Peabody excused Mollie, and told her to have a good night.

Mollie was beside herself. She made a quick dash out of the room, down the stairs, and hugged the cover she pulled over her head.

What a fine mess Mrs Jellybe had now found herself. All along, Mrs Peabody now concluded the facts respecting the so called, Matron's Assistant, the board had manufactured before her.

She will make a fine Assistant, though an unpleasant nature she does seem to possess. Nevertheless, this is the type of character required to handle a house filled with urchins. They will not perform any kind of underhandedness within her proximity.

Once Mollie vacated the bedchamber, Mrs Jellybe whined and blew the misdemeanour out of proportion.

'T'at gamin is nut'n but a trouble maker, Mrs. I did me best with 'er, but 'er keeps going places w'ere she 'as no business. T'ere was no reason f'er 'er being in t'is chamber, but 'er don't listen at all.' Her talk muddled the Matron's head, for she had not slept enough while away.

'We will talk on that matter when the sun rises anew, but as of for now, it is time to deal with the matter at hand. You must tarry with little Sal until daybreak. Someone is required, as you well know, to remain with the dead until the burial. Can you manage the task, Mrs Jellybe? Or must I have cook take over until I locate another assistant?'




 


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So sorry to have been away. I hope you remember the beginning of this story.
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