This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 by Inara Reynolds - All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Book cover by Inara Reynolds
Iniquitous Part Three
Abigail served them cucumber and smoked salmon finger sandwiches, lemon teacakes, and cream. They sat and ate in the dining room next to the massive fireplace. Sir Harry sat sipping his brandy, studying the girls' faces. This was the first time Matilda and Agnes had eaten anything since they had become orphans.
The two children ate hungrily, and Leonora was happy to see they had their appetites back. It was a step closer to the girls getting re-homed.
Leonora smiled at Agnes as she reached over to the girl, brushing her hand against the child's back, offering both comfort and approval that she had finally eaten something. Agnes' body went limp, and she began to tremble, she felt the Matron's hand against her. Agnes put her finger sandwich on her plate. She sat staring at it.
"I am sorry if I am frightening you, Agnes. Please finish your food. You don't want to offend our host," Leonora said, shooting a glance at Harry.
Sir Harry leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on the table. He looked at Agnes, studying her face. Agnes looked up at him for a moment, pursing her lips as to speak. Lucy coughed, and Agnes darted her eyes to look at her little sister.
"Pardon me," Lucy said, flashing a close-lipped smile at her older sister.
Agnes averted her eyes back to her plate. She picked up her sandwich and held it up to her mouth. Agnes opened her mouth and broke off a nibble of bread. Lucy sat at the end of the table, her elbows resting against the wood, her fingers forming a steeple over her plate as she watched Agnes eat.
"I think this is a timely reminder that the children need clean and dry night clothes," Sir Harry stood up. "I am sure they are tired, poor dears. Excuse me."
He was gone for a brief moment, returning with the strange man, Gerald in tow. Gerald's face was free of the cravat he had worn earlier. Leonora smiled at Gerald as he entered the room, noticing there was something odd about his face. His eyes were hallowed, sunken deep into their socket. As she studied his eyes, she realized they weren't eyes at all. They were glass orbs filled with tinges of lightning that glinted in a pale green from within their encasement.
Gerald, engrossed in Leonora's stares, ran into the back of Sir Harry, almost dropping the neatly folded clothing he was carrying.
Sir Harry turned around to face Gerald. He rested a hand on the robot's shoulder. "Clumsy child, pay attention to where you are going, won't you? Please give our Missus the clothing for the children."
Gerald nodded in reply and walked around the side of the table to Leonora. He handed her the clothing as the children stared at him in shock at his appearance.
"Thank you, Gerald," Leonora said, studying the being with curiosity.
Gerald backed away from Leonora in a slow panic. He shook his head back and forth in a quick motion, as he moved to hide behind Sir Harry. Gerald stood behind his master, his head hung in shame.
"Gerald, the lady isn't trying to make you feel self-conscious. You may go if you wish it," Sir Harry said.
Gerald nodded and hurried out of the room. The front door slammed shut as he exited the building.
"Forgive him, Missus, we don't get many visitors out here, and he is rather shy. I haven't had the opportunity to socialize him as I have Abigail."
"Forgive me, Sir Harry, I have sat at your table and shared a meal with you but have yet to tell you my name. I am Leonora, and this is Matilda, Agnes, and Lucy, my young wards. Thank you for allowing us to take shelter from the storm."
"The pleasure is all my Mrs. Leonora. I don't have the heart to leave small children out in this weather." Sir Harry smiled and looked at the girl's faces.
"It's just Leonora. I have never married; I have dedicated my life to taking care of orphans," Leonora said.
"Very noble, Leonora," Sir Harry said, his face turning to sorrow as he looked at the children's faces. His gaze focused on Lucy, and for a moment, he was mesmerized as if caught in a trance.
"Father, the rooms are ready for our guests," Abigail's voice brought Sir Harry back to this moment in time.
"Thank you, dear. If you could please show our guests upstairs, I would appreciate it." Sir Harry said, pouring himself another brandy.
Leonora with the girls in tow followed Abigail up the long winding staircase to the second floor.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on this part? Creative and helpful criticism is welcome! See a typo on this first draft? Let me know!