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 I know you are, she said sternly.  Now, you are not going to steal anymore, but you re not going to go
hungry, either. Tommy, Andrew, I am taking you to a place where you will be cared for properly.
 What place? asked Andrew, instantly wary.
 A school.
Tommy s eyebrows lifted.  School?
Bel nodded firmly at them, resolved. She could cancel her order for her next evening gown. These two
children would have a roof over their heads, clean clothes on their backs, and food in their bellies even if
she had to take her money out of the funds.
 I don t want no school, Andrew said after a moment, scowling.
 I don t care, Bel replied.
 How come you don t sell oranges no more? Tommy piped up.
 Look at her fancy drags, Tom. She s on the game, said Andrew like any long-suffering elder brother.
Taken aback Bel gaped at the boy, then wanted to die of mortification. She snapped her mouth shut and
looked away, reminding herself that after life in the flash house, these children had seen it all. Still, she
was heartily glad they didn t ask why it was all right for her to whore, but wrong for them to steal, for she
had no idea how to answer. Guilt razed her conscience for having allowed herself to forget about the
poor little wretches for more than a month, absorbed as she had been in her own problems.
She leaned out and directed William to take the Edgware Road out to Paddington. While teaching at
Mrs. Hall s she had heard about a charity school there privately funded by the Philanthropic Society.
Surely she could persuade the headmaster to accept her homeless waifs.
When they arrived Bel grasped each boy s hand to stop them from running off and marched them up to
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the squat brick school in determination.
She and her young charges were received with trepidation by the secretary. She asked to see the
headmaster. The secretary agreed to keep an eye on the boys, who sat down obediently in the reception
room, while she was shown into the headmaster s office. She waited in fidgety impatience for a couple of
minutes then looked up in cool, aloof composure when in walked a pinch-faced, hook-nosed little
busybody of a man.
 Sorry to have kept you waiting, miss. I am Mr. Webb. How may I help you? he intoned in nasal
pomp.
 Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Webb. I have come about two boys whom I would like to enroll as
students in your school.
The corners of his mouth turned down.  We are full near to capacity, I m afraid. Were they born in this
parish?
Bel hesitated.
 You did bring their birth certificates, Miss ah?
 Hamilton. Belinda Hamilton 
His left eyebrow shot up.
Bel cursed herself the instant her full name was past her lips.
She knew she was famous or infamous in Town, but who on earth would have thought that the
principal of a charity school would have heard of her?
He cocked his head, eyeing her like an ill-tempered little bird.  What relation are these children to you?
he asked in suspicion.
 They are friends. Mr. Webb, these children need a roof over their heads. They have been living on the
streets. They ve had nothing to eat 
 One moment, he cut her off.  Living on the street? They do not sound at all suitable for our
establishment, Miss Hamilton. I cannot allow them to corrupt the other children.
 Sir! she exclaimed, taken aback.  They re not going to corrupt anyone.
 We have orphans here, but all come from decent homes of therespectable poor. I m sure these urchins
of yours are quite unfortunate, but if you cannot even produce their birth certificates, I am not obliged to
take them.
 Perhaps I have not made myself clear. She forced a winning smile at him.  I am offering to pay for
their enrollment and their keep. They are good, darling little boys. They only need an education to make
them fit for work one day, and a bit of discipline 
 Miss Hamilton, he cut her off again,  their kind is not welcome here. Nor is yours.
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Her jaw dropped.  My kind? You cannot condemn the children because of me.
 This is a decent Christian establishment, Miss Hamilton. I m sure you ll understand.
 Is it? It doesn t seem very Christian to me. Didn t our Lord have a friend who was a whore?
 Good day, ma am, he replied coldly.
 Mr. Webb, you are condemning these children to the gallows.
 It is their parents place to teach them virtuous conduct.
 They have no parents. I m the only adult they know.
 Marylebone workhouse will take them 
She suppressed an oath.  I wouldn t turn a stray dog in to the workhouse. I ll pay you extra 
 We shall not accept your money, Miss Hamilton, considering its source. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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