The Strange Case of Finley Jayne Page 2

Finley glanced up in time to catch her mother’s smile. She hadn’t been completely honest, nor had she lied precisely. She told her parents that she had lost her job because of an altercation with the governess who was favored by the mistress of the house. That was all true. She simply left out the part about causing that same servant to swallow her own teeth.

“I will, Mama,” she promised, trying to force her own lips to curve.

Slowly, her mother’s smile faded away, replaced by an expression of concern that tightened the corners of her pale blue eyes. Finley had often wished her eyes could be that color, but as she grew up she began to appreciate that she had something of Thomas Jayne about her.

“Has something else happened?” her mother asked. “Is there something you want to talk about?”

Words teetered on the tip of her tongue, just waiting to spill out and confess everything, but Finley bit them back. “No. I’m just disappointed in myself.”

“Learn from it and then let it go. Dwelling never helped anyone.” A strange expression crossed her face. “You must believe me in this.”

For a moment Finley wondered, as she often did when her mother was particularly cryptic, if she referred to Finley’s father. She had never known her real father, and though Silas had been as good to her as any father could, she often wondered about the man.

She wondered if she looked like him—her mother said she did. She wondered how many things that she enjoyed or disliked had come from him. And she wondered, of course, if he might have been a little mad. Her mother never came out and said such a thing, but there were secrets where her father was concerned. Finley had never even been to his grave. Her mother claimed she wouldn’t know where to find it in the graveyard, she’d been so grief stricken, but Finley sometimes thought that was a lie.

Perhaps it was better that she didn’t know the truth.

“I will try not to dwell on things, Mama,” she promised. “And I will begin to look for a new position first thing tomorrow morning.”

Her mother gave her fingers a light squeeze. “I know you will, but I want you to find something that suits you, so don’t rush in to the first employment you find. You may stay here as long as you want, and take time to find a post where they will treat you well.” A slight smile curved her lips. “One where they hopefully do not employ a governess.”

Finley laughed. Laughing made it seem like everything was going to be all right. She would find a new job and there was nothing wrong with her. If only she could keep laughing, she might just believe it.


Fate, it seemed, also had an odd sense of humor, because Finley didn’t have to go looking for new employment the next morning; new employment came looking for her.

She was in the small parlor in their apartments above the bookshop, taking tea with her mother and mending a tear in one of her best dresses with the small steam-powered sewing engine, when Silas came up from the shop, his lean cheeks pale.

“Silas,” her mother began in a concerned tone. “Whatever is the matter?”

“There’s a Lady Morton in the shop,” he told them. “She says she’s here to see Finley.”

Finley’s hand froze on the lever that operated the machine’s engine. She looked from her mother’s surprised face to Silas’s and then back to her mother. They knew of Lady Morton, of course; she was frequently mentioned in the society pages. “What could she want with me?”

“She didn’t say,” Silas replied. “And I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know how to ask.”

Slowly, on knees that trembled ever so slightly, Finley rose to her feet. Lady Morton was a friend to Lady Gattersleigh—mother of little Fenton, whose governess she had jobbed in the mouth just the day before.

Was the lady there to make her life even more unpleasant? Tell her mother and Silas that she was unnatural? Perhaps she was being overly pessimistic, but she didn’t see how this visit could possibly end on a positive note.

“Should I bring her up?” Silas asked, turning now to his wife, who looked horrified at the prospect of entertaining an aristocrat in her humble home.

“No,” Finley answered, partially because she didn’t want to embarrass her mother, but mostly because whatever Lady Morton had to say, her parents didn’t need to hear it. “I’ll attend to her ladyship downstairs. Excuse me.”

She didn’t look at either her mother or Silas as she made her way to the door that led downstairs to the shop. She held her head high and shoulders back and tried to keep her knees from visibly shaking. She would not be afraid. This woman could do nothing to hurt her any worse than Finley had already done to herself.

When she reached the bottom of the stairs and peered out around the entrance to the shop, she saw the lady standing in front of a shelf of leather-bound volumes of poetry by Byron. Ladies always seemed to enjoy the romantic poet’s work. A few feet away from her, Silas’s automaton assistant, Fanny toiled at dusting the packed shelves.

Fanny was a little shorter than Finley, but had arms and legs that could lengthen if needed. She was programmed to do menial tasks around the shop—such as dusting and shelving books. She had no voice box and did not respond when spoken to. Still, Finley felt as though the skeletal machine was part of the family.

Lady Morton was perhaps in her mid-to late thirties. A handsome woman with dark hair and pale green eyes—or rather, one pale green eye. The other was a curved, smoky lens that fit beneath her top and bottom lid. It was like looking into a storm cloud and seeing your own face reflected. Finley didn’t know how it worked, but apparently the lens worked much like an eye did, only better.

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