“It really is quite remarkable,” said Burgess, gingerly sipping his warm tea, which he had taken in the kitchen to avoid another staring contest with Mr. Forrestal. “I have heard of and seen many deformities of the body in the literature and as a boy at the freak show. But Melinda is no Mr. Merrick, no gross and twisted creature.”

Mary, who had been put at ease by a shilling and the promise of more, agreed over the sound of her washing. “You’d never think that she were a freak,” she said, “but rather that Master Peter’s wife had a naff with a blackbird. ‘Course that ain’t the case, as those what knew her father see plenty of him in her.”

“Surely there are ways to be…less dependent…on Mr. Forrestal,” said Burgess. “An anatomical curiosity such as hers could command a healthy living in the penny gaff trade, or as a curiosity at the London Hospital…”

A clatter of dishes. “Oh no, sir. Begging the master’s pardon, but that could never be so,” cried Mary.

“Why ever not?”

“Well, you’ve seen her. A delicate, gentle creature with the soul of a songbird. Such a cage would flatten her! And Master Forrestal would never allow it, besides. To see the family name besmirched, his secret shame revealed to all the world?”

“Yes, I suppose not,” said Burgess gravely. “Mr. Forrestal does seem rather concerned with appearances.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Mary said darkly. “You don’t know the half of it.”

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