Saturday, August 14, 2010

Decorating Tip: Ceiling Medallions

Whether your décor is contemporary or traditional, the ceiling is really just another wall and deserves as much attention. As I’ve mentioned before, Victorian decorators often painted the ceiling blue to emulate the sky. But, your ceiling can be any color that goes with your room.

Adding a ceiling medallion is another great way to bring some interest and detail to that “fifth wall.” Either anchoring a light fixture or simply on its own, a medallion adds some flare to any ceiling. Resin ceiling medallions are available in a variety of styles, sizes and shapes. They’re easy to install, too. You might consider adding one to a room in your home as a way of unifying the look of the entire space.



Punch's Cousin, Chapter 18

Julian shivered as his damp shirt clung to his back. His raw throat scraped with each ragged pant as he ran—his body awkwardly bending around sharp corners as his fled deeper into the maze of the ship’s corridors. Spotting a narrow flight of stairs, he grabbed the rail to steady himself before hurrying down them.


When he reached the bottom, the tightness in his chest clawed deeper into his heart with the rough, acidic hands of panic. No, he didn’t want to be further below, closer to the tumble of the ocean. Yet his feet continued to carry him past rows of doors that were far plainer than the ones in the corridors above. Narrow metal pock marks—some open to reveal drably-dressed people with teeth like crooked tombstones. Some—worse still—were closed, hiding what could have been incomparable evil behind each.

Julian moaned between the rasps of his breath. His stomach churned with the sea—his own boiling ocean of bitterness and bile which would swell to tickle the back of his throat. Julian gagged.

“Here now,” a man’s voice taunted Julian from behind.

Lord Fallbridge stopped, pressing his back against the cold wall.

“I think ‘e’s got hisself lost.” The man said.

“Musta done.” Another man added.

The two of them walked toward Julian. Rusty tweed caps sat askew on their heads, covering curly mops of oily hair.

“No, no.” Julian said, still panting. “No.”

“Listen, Sir.” One of the men said. “This ain’t no place for the likes of you. Go on back up.”

Julian gasped for air. “I’m lost. Lost.”

The men looked at one another, and, then turned back to Julian with a strange expression in their eyes. Julian couldn’t tell what it was. Was it pity? Was it something more sinister?

“What’s yer name, Sir?” One of the men asked, he reached for Julian with his wide hands—calloused fingers tipped by chipped nails.

“I…” Julian shook. “I….”

“’E’s in his cups.” One of them laughed. “The fine gentleman likes ‘is drink.”

“What’s that, Sir?” The other smiled. “Such a pretty blue stone on yer hand.”

“Leave him alone,” a woman said curtly as she approached them. She wore a wide-brimmed bonnet with a rose-colored veil that covered her face.

“Aw, Miss. We’re only trying to ‘elp ‘im.” The taller of the two men winked.

“Sir,” The woman spoke to Julian from a distance. “The stairs are that way.” She pointed up the corridor, her hands gloved in clinging lavender silk. “I suggest you hurry back.”

Her voice was familiar.

“Go on, then.” She said sharply.

Julian bent forward, and then, darted past the two men, trying not to touch them as he brushed by. They smelled of sweat and gin, and Julian thought of Arthur.

Though perspiration stung his eyes, Julian could make out the shadow of the stairs. Feeling for the railing, he steadied himself again and in near-blindness fumbled up the stairs.

“Lord Julian,” Robert sighed with relief from above.

“Help me, please.” Julian cried.

Robert gently took Julian’s arm and led him back to his cabin. He helped Julian to the bed and lifted a glass of water to the man’s quivering lips. Julian tried to drink, but the water spilled down his chin.

“You mustn’t do that again, Julian.” Robert said softly.

“I don’t know why I did.” Julian shook.

“Rest now,” Robert said.

Julian lay back.

“That woman…” Julian began.

“What woman?” Robert asked, fetching a cloth to wipe Julian’s face.

“Below. In the violet gloves. She wore a veil.” Julian continued to shake. “I knew her voice.”

“How could you have?” Robert asked.

“I think it was Barbara,” Julian continued. “I think it was my sister.”

Robert froze. He inhaled deeply.

“No, Sir,” Robert smiled. “It couldn’t have been Lady Barbara.”

“I think I’d know my own sister’s voice.” Julian answered.

“Julian, I mean no disrespect, but I doubt you even know your own voice.” Robert said gently.

“Whatever do you mean by that insolent remark?” Julian said with uncharacteristic irritability.

“Julian,” Robert began.

Suddenly, Julian rushed toward Robert, pinning him to the wall.

“Oh, no!” Julian’s mouth formed the words of another. “Don’t you tell him. Not now. No. He mustn’t know now! Where’s my stick?”

Robert laughed, unfazed. He pushed Mr. Punch aside and carefully sat him down on the narrow bed.

“Very well, Punch.” Robert said courteously. “But, he will find out eventually.”

“When I say so.” Punch spoke through Julian. “I am in command.”

“But, Mr. Punch,” Robert smiled. “Is that fair?”

“I’ll make it worth your while to keep silent.” Punch narrowed Julian’s eyes. He removed the blue diamond from Julian’s hand, offering the ring to Robert.

“Really, Mr. Punch?” Robert grinned. “I’m listening.”


Did you miss Chapters 1-17? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, August 16 for Chapter 19 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Stay Strong

Keeping our bodies strong is always on the forefront of our thoughts. We worry about what we eat, how much exercise we take and making sure that we stay in good shape. However, we also have to remember to keep our minds strong. All of us should take time to exercise our minds.

We must let our creative and intellectual muscles flex. Similarly, we all should remind ourselves to keep healthy emotional boundaries. Don’t let the negative thoughts you have bully you into making choices that aren’t the best for you. Remember that you are in control of what you think and feel. When your mind and your spirit stay strong, a healthy body is soon to follow.

Objects of the Day: French Second Empire Candlesticks

Standing with pride since 1860, this couple never falters in their work. Cast in bronze, two Second Empire figures clutch delicate candleholders. Their bases of highly polished ebony and delicately-veined green marble contrast with the deep patina of the bronze. At fifteen inches high, they cut imposing figures. Solid and stalwart in their Renaissance-inspired costumes, they challenge the dark.

The term Second Empire refers to the arts of the reign of Napoleon III (1852-1870). The style of the time drew heavily from the Italian Renaissance and also introduced a Gothic revival. These candlesticks fittingly represent the sensibilities of the Second Empire with their carefully rendered costumes and monumental faces. The bases speak of the elegance of the time—letting the materials show their natural beauty in simplistic forms borrowed from the earlier Neoclassical Movement. They seem to tell us to remain loyal to the task at hand, and to remember that perseverance will always win out.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Masterpiece of the Week: La Comédie Humaine by Jean Louis Hamon, 1852

Though undoubtedly talented, as a young painter, Jean-Louis Hamon struggled for recognition—success eluding him at every turn. In 1850, eager to make a living, he began work in the manufacture of enameled Sèvres porcelain. Strangely enough, an enameled box painted by Hamon brought him the attention he’d always sought. The beautifully painted casket won awards at the 1851 London International Exhibition.




Fueled by the praise he was finally receiving, Hamon went on to exhibit in the Salon of 1852. The painting he submitted was La Comédie Humaine, a reworking of a piece he first created in 1847. Based on a multi-volume collection of related novels and stories which depicted French society in the period of the Restoration, Hamon’s painting breathes with color and a remarkably lifelike fluidity of motion.

A Guignol Puppet Theater—the centerpiece of the painting—represents the art of social commentary. A multi-faceted allegory of the arts, society and humanities surround Guignol in assorted tableaus. Unsurprisingly, the painting was widely applauded, offering Hamon a chance to make his mark in the very society that he lampooned. When viewed through modern eyes, the society shown in this painting—despite the costumes—really still resembles ours today. Ultimately, Hamon was able to make a far more everlasting mark on the world than he had even imagined. This masterwork is on display at The Musée d'Orsay.



Our First Trivia Contest!

For a little extra Friday Fun, I’m introducing Stalking the Belle Époque’s very first Trivia Contest. The first person to answer all ten questions correctly will win their choice of a very-stylish Stalking the Belle Époque, The Garnet Red or Punch’s Cousin tee-shirt. The answers to all of these questions can be found in the posts on this blog. Just email your answers to me.


1. The song “The Ballad of Barbara Allen” and the character “Mr. Punch” were both first recorded in the diary of this famous British statesman?

2. Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery and other Details was written by which architect?

3. Which gorgeous comedienne is the founder of the Cancer Schmancer Movement?

For more shopping, visit our store.
4. Mr. Punch’s wife’s name was originally what?

5. In the 1945 film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, who portrayed Dorian?

6. What is Julian, Lord Fallbridge’s surname.?

7. Most “marble” mantle clocks are really made from what stone?

8. Which metal is referred to as “French Bronze?”

9. The Hudson River Valley estate, “Olana” was built for which celebrated landscape painter?

10. The French equivalent to the British character, “Punch” is called…?



Remember to email your answers to me for your chance to win your very own Stalking the Belle Époque or Punch’s Cousin tee-shirt.

As always, thanks for reading!

Antique Image of the Day: Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle

From The Royal Collection.
She had just enjoyed her breakfast and retired to the Queen’s Sitting Room at Windsor Castle. Princess Beatrice accompanied Queen Victoria, bringing the daily news, so that she could read it to Her Majesty. Together, they sat amidst the glorious artwork and furniture, the morning sunlight filtering through the windows to blanket their comfortable scene.

Taken on May 21, 1895, the gelatine silver print is the work of an unnamed Dutch photographer who had been recommended to the Queen by the Princess of Wales. This image shows a domestic scene set in the most opulent of settings and reminds us that for all the trappings of Royalty, Queen Victoria was simply human.

The Belle Époque Today: The Photography of Guy R. Giersch

Image courtesy of Guy R. Giersch
Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.

--Anne Frank
While we’re on the subject of evidence of beauty in the modern world, I’d like to share the talent of someone I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with for several years. Guy R. Giersch is the Historic Preservation Officer of my hometown. For four years, I served with him on the Historic Preservation Advisory Board. Guy is a fine artist. His medium is photography. Guy has one of the most neatly-tuned senses of color that I’ve ever known in a photographer.

Take, for instance, this image from Guy’s collection, “Beauty.” These images were captured in Italy and demonstrate Guy’s sensitive handling of color, motion and light. It’s people like Guy who are strengthening the footsteps of our march toward the rebirth of The Belle Epoque.

If you’d like more information about Mr. Giersch’s work, please contact me.

Beauty in Action: Pencil Tip Sculptures by Dalton Ghetti

For all my focus on the arts of the past, I do have a healthy appreciation for the arts of the present as well. Friend of “Stalking the Belle Époque,” Madonna, brought the work of Dalton Ghetti to my attention. The Connecticut carpenter uses a sewing needle, a razor blade and a sculpting needle to craft these amazing miniature sculptures into the graphite of pencils. The work is truly amazing! The painstaking concentration this must take is proof that the seeds of our new Belle Époque have been planted.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 17

Good day, Mr. Punch.” Robert calmly nodded to Julian who looked up at him wide-eyed from the narrow bed.


“You may call me Mr. ‘Punch,’ doctor, however to be exact, as I’ve told you before, my surname is Molliner.” Punch said through Julian’s mouth.

“Very well.” Robert nodded.

“I remember you,” Punch said, making Julian’s body sit up. “Oh, yes, I remember you. Julian doesn’t. But, I do.”

“Do you, Mr. Punch?”

“Of course, foolish man.” Punch forced Julian’s mouth into a wide grin which looked to Robert as if it might hurt Julian’s face. “You were the physician what attended Julian when those men jumped ‘im in Covent Garden. I remember you because you weren’t so rough with him. You see, I was there. I was there twice, you might say.”

“Twice?” Robert asked, remaining quite level-headed despite the odd scene that played out before him.

“Sure enough. My brother…you know, in the theater.” Punch grumbled.

“I see.” Robert nodded.

“Julian doesn’t remember so much about that day. But, I do. I remember everything. Even the first time—long, long ago with Nanny. Only, Julian doesn’t like to think about it. I know about it. I think about it all the time.”

“Mr. Punch,” Robert began, “you say you remember my attending His Lordship when he was beaten in Covent Garden that day. I, too, remember you. You introduced yourself to me at the time.”

“I know.” Punch widened Julian’s eyes.

“I also knew that the body of the man who was injured belonged to Julian, Lord Fallbridge. Not to Mr. Punch.”

“Yes, it’s his body—so much as it is. Believe me, Julian’s isn’t so special. But, it’s the only body we’ve got between us what with mine being taken from my nice spot in the cabinet.”

“Who took you?” Robert asked.

“Now, I can’t very well see, can I? Not without Julian’s eyes. And, Julian was using his eyes at the time.” Punch spat irritably. “It can’t be helped that he’s got to use the body, too. Though he’s no good with it, he isn’t. Always so overwrought and upset. Always in such pain. It makes all of us hurt.”

“All?” Robert asked.

“Never you mind about that.” Punch spat. “If you please, I’ll be asking the questions.”

“I would prefer to do my business with Julian.” Robert said gently. He rubbed Julian’s shoulder lightly to try to elicit some response.

“Julian doesn’t like to be touched, you know.” Punch smirked. “’Sides, he can’t cope very well with much of anything. I’m the sharp one. Don’t you know I always win? I always kill the Devil!”

“So I understand.” Robert couldn’t help but smile.

“Don’t you laugh at me.” Punch warned.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Robert nodded.

“You are! You’re laughing at me. How dare you? Now, listen to me. I’m lost! I’m in pain. I’m the one what wants finding. Not that cow, Barbara. And, what’s more, if we find my body, maybe I won’t need to use Julian’s. Did you think of that? No. I’m trying to save me-self, and, you’re laughing. I’m lost! Lost, lost, lost, lost.”

Julian’s body rocked back and forth.

“Mr. Punch, do calm yourself.” Robert said soothingly.

“Go to Blazes, Mr. Halifax!” Punch shouted.

And, then, Julian’s body went limp.

“Julian?” Robert patted Julian’s face. “Julian?”

Julian, however, would not be roused.

Robert hurried to the basin to fetch some water, but the pitcher was empty.

“Damn fool, that Arthur.” Robert grumbled. He opened the cabin door to call for a porter.

Rushing down the hallway, he spotted Arthur on his way back, carrying a silver cloche-covered tray. The man, however, wasn’t alone. Next to him stood a woman in a large, veiled hat. Arthur spoke to her softly. She was clearly a lady.

“Impertinent man!” Robert shouted down the corridor, “Leave that lady alone. You’re needed here at once. Your master’s ill.”

Arthur frowned, but did as he was told.

“Pardon me, Miss,” Robert nodded at the lady who turned on her heel and left.

“I thought you said His Lordship were sick.” Arthur cooed from inside the cabin.

“He is,” Mr. Halifax said, following Arthur into the cabin, his eyebrows rising at the site of the empty bed.

“Well, he ain’t in here, Sir.” Arthur grinned.



Did you miss Chapters 1-16?  If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Dress Your Desk

Most of us spend the majority of our lives working. For many of us, that time is spent sitting at a desk. While some offices have very strict policies about placing personal items in the workspace, you can, no doubt, bring something small from home to liven up your environment a little bit.


Even the smallest reminder of something that you enjoy, something that makes you feel at-home, will brighten your day and, in turn, brighten the days of your coworkers. A photo, a paperweight, a favorite letter opener, even a plant—anything that makes you feel better is all you need to have around you.

Of course, if you work from home as I do, the sky’s the limit as far as what you can do to place objects around you that will bring you cheer as you work. Even if you work in a field where you don’t have a desk, a photo in your locker or in your truck, will put a smile on your face. No matter what, you should be happy in your work and make sure that the place where you spend the bulk of your time offers you something to feed your spirit.

Object of the Day: A Georgian Page-Turner

Crafted of thin maple, this page-turner dates to the late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century during the reigns of King George III and King George IV. The page-turner is inlaid with exotic woods to form a Greek key pattern which frames a mythological scene. Items such as this were used to turn the pages of manuscripts to avoid dirtying them with fingers. The pointed end of the page-turner served as a paper knife to separate pages that had not been cut. Often pages in a manuscript or in a book were bound and delivered uncut on the edges and needed to be sliced in order to be read.


My guess is that the decorative scene represents the Greek myth of Prometheus who was punished by Zeus by being bound to the rocks where an eagle ate his liver which would grow back—only to be eaten again, day-after-day. Not the most cheerful image, but very nicely inlaid.

I love objects such as this. Sure, we have paper knives now and some of them are very pretty. But, who thinks about having a “page-turner” to keep their books clean? Ah, but how many people out there think about books at all? I guess this is the Georgian equivalent of the little cloth that one would use to wipe off an iPad.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mastery of Design: The Imperial State Crown

The Imperial State Crown. Courtesy of The British Monarchy.
One of the most stunning achievements of the jeweler’s art, the British Imperial State Crown, is, perhaps, the most famous piece in the Crown Jewels. Based on the crown worn by St. Edward, the crown is an architectural marvel. From a base of four crosses pattée which alternates with four fleurs-de-lis, four half-arches support an orb and cross—symbols of the monarchy. The crown itself is lined in velvet and ermine.


A glittering mosaic of 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies, the crown also boasts some of the most famous gems in the world including The Black Prince’s “Ruby,” a sapphire from the ring of Edward the Confessor, the Stuart Sapphire and the magnificent Cullinan II Diamond which alone weighs 317.4 carats.

The current version of the crown was designed and manufactured in 1937 for the coronation of King George VI and was altered for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Worn annuallyby the Queen for the State Opening of Parliament, the crown usually resides in The Jewel House in the Tower of London with the other crown jewels.

Gem of the Week: The Spinel

Antique Spinel Necklace from The Three Graces.
Composed of Magnesium-Aluminum, the spinel is an often underappreciated and unrecognized gemstone. The spinel—through the presence of certain chemical combinations—can be colorless, red, blue, green, brown or black. Red spinels are often referred to as “Balas Rubies.”

In fact, spinels are often mistaken for rubies, sapphires, topaz or emeralds. The most famous case of mistaken-spinel-identity is the Black Prince’s Ruby—the centerpiece of the British Imperial State Crown. Not a ruby at all, this stone is a large, deep-red spinel weighing 170 carats.


The Black Prince's "Ruby," The Royal Collection
Spinels can offer the same brilliance that other gems demonstrate while exhibiting a hardness not present in stones such as the emerald. Modern jewelers often use the term “spinel” to refer to a lab-created stone. You may recall picking out your High School class ring and noticing that the hunk of pep-rally glass was referred to as “spinel.” Don’t be fooled by this. If you’re purchasing a spinel, make sure that it’s the real thing.

Very popular in Victorian and Edwardian jewelry, the spinel is often dominant stone in many antique and vintage designs. Their beauty and their durability earns them the right to the same fame that their better-known siblings enjoy.

Question of the Week: Let's Talk About Pets

Why not?
I know that many of the visitors to Stalking the Belle Époque are pet owners and animal lovers.  You've all read about my Bertie, now I'd like to know a little about your pets.  What kinds of pets do you have?  What are their personalities?  If you don't have a pet, what kind would you like.  Having animals around us makes our world immeasurably more beautiful.  I'm sure we'd all like to know about the four-footed friends that bring joy and beauty to your life.  I look forward to reading your comments!

Decorating Tip: Getting Lean

Pictures and mirrors don’t always have to be hung on the wall. An elegant way to display a cherished work of art is to lean it against the wall. Resting a picture on a mantle, a sideboard or even the floor gives it a sense of importance and sets it apart from other decorations.

Leaning a picture is an elegantly casual way to draw attention to a piece. If you’re leaning a picture as part of a grouping, you may consider loosely attaching it to the wall so that it doesn’t slide off and damage itself or the other objects around it. With a little creativity, you can create an interesting tableau centered around your leaning artwork.

Term for the Day: Foxing

The term “foxing” refers to the discolorations and spotting that arise from age on antique and vintage paper. The name derives from the reddish hue of these stains which evoke thoughts of a fox and could perhaps also refer to the rust-color of Ferric Acid. The phenomenon is thought to be caused by mold or the discoloration of elements within the paper itself. Foxed paper is not permanently damaged. The staining does not affect the integrity of the paper itself. A capable conservator can undo the stains of foxing with relative ease. Foxing does affect the value of antique papers. However, with the assistance of a paper conservator, the value will be restored.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 16

Julian felt the odd sensation of rocking. The feeling was unsettling. He was, at once, a child being rocked in arms that smelled of rosewater and salty perspiration. “Didn’t I tell you, Master Julian? Didn’t I tell you? You’re a naughty, naughty boy. I told you they’d eat you alive. Didn’t I? Didn’t I? Now, what will Her Grace say? She must never know. Never, never, never…”


Julian shrieked and bolted upright.

“Your Lordship?” Mr. Halifax flew from the chair beside Julian’s bed and knelt beside him.

“What? Who are you? Don’t touch me!” Julian screamed.

“It is I, Lord Julian. Robert Halifax.”

Julian leaned back against the pillows. He realized he was in his cabin on the Hyperion.

“Yes, of course.” Julian nodded.

Robert reached for Julian’s hand. Julian pulled his own hand back quickly.

“Begging your pardon, Sir.” Robert Halifax said, rising and taking his seat again. “You seem to have had a bad dream.”

“It would seem so.” Julian rubbed his eyes. “I so infrequently sleep. Perhaps that’s why. Too many dreams.”

“You need to sleep, Julian.” Robert Halifax smiled. “Do you mind if I just call you by your given name?”

“I don’t suppose so.” Julian sighed. “Considering you’re sitting in my bed chamber and have been watching me sleep. I imagine that gives us some degree of familiarity.” Julian twisted the ring on his left index finger. As he did, he noticed the brilliant blue sparkle of the diamond on his right hand, and thought, for a moment, of his father and of Punch. “For just how long have I been sleeping, Mr. Halifax.”

“Robert,” The man smiled, “please. For about two hours. I hope you don’t mind that I stayed. I was concerned about you. After I brought you back here, you were somewhat disoriented and your breathing was labored.”

“And, so, you thought you’d watch me?” Julian asked.

“I am a physician.” Robert responded. “I thought I might be of help.”

“You didn’t introduce yourself to me as such.” Julian narrowed his eyes.

“I didn’t see the need.” Robert smiled.

“I suppose you would be a physician. You did help bring my sister’s…”

“Child, yes.” Robert nodded. “However, let’s not talk about any of that presently. You need to rest. Do you remember what happened on deck?”

“I remember having breakfast with you.” Julian answered irritably.

“We didn’t have breakfast, Julian.” Robert shook his head.

“Certainly we did. We were in the dining room—all those frescoes and…” Julian paused.

“You must be hungry.” Robert interrupted.

“Not especially.” Julian sighed. “I’m rarely hungry.”

“A body needs nourishment and sleep—two things you seem to be lacking. Please, let me call for a porter to bring us something.”

“I don’t want anything.” Julian answered.

“Well, I do.” Robert stood, walking to the door. As he did, Arthur entered the cabin.

Robert Halifax scowled at the man.

“Pardon me, Your Lordship, Mr. Halifax.” Arthur grinned with bilious treacle. “Only, I’ve come to collect your letters, Sir. We’ll be docking soon and I thought you would want to post something to Her Grace.”

“I haven’t written anything.” Julian coughed nervously.

“Haven’t you, Sir?” Arthur hissed.

“My man,” Robert said, “His Lordship needs his rest and some sustenance. Fetch us a tray, please. Something light.”

Arthur looked to Julian.

“Do as you’re told, Arthur.” Julian nodded. “Please.”

“As you wish.” Arthur growled, exiting the room.

“An odd fellow.” Robert commented, returning to his seat. “Not bad looking though.”

“He’s quite disagreeable. My mother is very fond of him—as fond as she could be of a servant.” Julian muttered.

“How do you know my sister?” Julian asked.

“Please, let’s not speak of all of that. Just rest.” Robert responded.

“Mr. Halifax…”

“Robert.”

“Very well, Robert. I’m not on this voyage for my health. I’m in search of Barbara. She’s gotten herself into…trouble. I need to know all that I can in order to return her home.”

“To the Baron?” Robert raised an eyebrow. “Do you think he’ll have her when he finds out she’s born a child out of wedlock?”

“Well, I can return her to Mother.”

“Her Grace must never know…”

Julian felt the blood in his arms alight into stabbing flames which burned through the sinew and muscle of his body to fill his head with a familiar black smoke.

“Julian?” Robert asked.

Julian could hear Robert’s voice, but also –from deep within the heavy ink of the mist—other voices. “Her Grace must never know, you naughty boy. Never, never, never.” Julian’s head spun. “Master, help me, I am lost, lost, lost, lost, lost…”

Nanny’s voice, Punch’s voice…his mother’s. “You are quite mad, aren’t you? You little hobgoblin!” The voices of the people on the deck, singing in drunken delight of cruelty.

Julian rolled onto his side and pressed his body against the coolness of the cabin’s wall.


He turned his face unto the wall
As deadly pangs he fell in.
"Adieu! Adieu! Adieu to you all!
Adieu to Barbara Allen!"

Robert rose and sat next to Julian on the narrow bed. He put his hand on Julian’s shaking shoulder.

Julian spoke—his throat ached as the words poured out, words that were not of his own creation, yet still came from his mouth.

He rolled onto his back and looked up at Robert.

“Tell me, man, about this ‘Elegant Ogress.’ She knows what is in my head. What was…”

A laugh spilled from Julian’s face.

“They don’t think I can feel, but I can. I felt them rip my head open. You can help me. They won’t eat both of us.”

“Julian?” Robert repeated.

“No, no.” The response fell from Julian’s lips. “I’m Punch.”


Did you miss Chapters 1-15?  If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Praise Your Pets

"Stop typing and play with me!"
If you ever doubt the existence of unconditional love, look no further than your pets. My Bertie brings joy to even the darkest days. Loyal, brave, funny, charming, friendly and intelligent, Bertie demonstrates so many of the qualities that we, as humans, strive to achieve each day. Because they are so steadfast, we often take our pets for granted. They are consistent, and, so, we don’t really worry about what they may be thinking or feeling. And, yes, they do think, and, in their own way, they do have emotions.


So, today, if you have a pet, take a few minutes to do something special for him or her. You can give your pet chilled, bottled water on a hot day. Make some time to play with your pet and his or her favorite toy. Even just a few extra belly-rubs while you’re watching TV, will make your pet’s day.

If you don’t have a pet, you might consider picking up some pet food and dropping it off at a local animal shelter, or better still, consider giving a pet a loving home. Bertie was a rescue dog. Adopting him was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Animals add so much to our lives. And, as I’ve said before, they have so much to teach us.

Object of the Day: An Engraving by Charles Landseer, 1845

Though never achieving the huge fame of his brother, Edwin Landseer, Charles Landseer (1799-1879) possessed an enormous talent and attained the respect of his peers with his epic historical paintings. Charles was named Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools in 1851. One of his most famous works was the painting of Charles I, On the Eve of the Battle of Edgehill, 1642.


For this painting, Charles asked his famous brother, Edwin, to paint the dogs in the scene. Edwin, known for his stunning paintings of animals, was happy to oblige. This collaboration on their part caused some controversy. In 1861, the two dogs were cut from the canvas and sold as individual works of art attributed to Edwin Landseer—leaving the painting terribly damaged. Legend has it, that eleven years later, the two dogs were replicated by an unknown artist and restored to the canvas which was then sold at auction.

The original, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
This 1845 engraving of the painting was crafted under the direction of Charles Landseer himself. A crisp representation of the original, engravings such as this are our only indication of what the painting would have looked like before being cut. With its ominous sky and exquisite detail, we have the sense of being present in the tense moment just before the Battle of Edgehill. Landseer was clever to add a domestic feeling to the painting by adding representations of townspeople in the scene. These gentle faces set against the stoniness of the king show the effects of war on the population. Just as talented as his brother, Charles Landseer deserves to be remembered for his sensitive portrayals of important world events. The moments that he replicates shaped the world as we know it today.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Everyone Should Know Punch

"Punch" from Scribner's Monthly, 1876
“Mr. Punch,” as he is known, figures prominently in my online novel, Punch’s Cousin, though just how Punch is involved remains to be seen. Punch, of course, is known to all of us because of his antics with his put-upon wife, Judy, and their equally long-suffering baby (named appropriately enough, “Baby”). Together, they are the stars of the much-beloved traditional English puppet shows.


The original Punch puppets were actually English adaptations of the Italian Sixteenth-Century Commedia dell’Arte character, Pulcinella. The name was anglicized to Punchinello, and, later, simply Punch. In early performances, Mr. Punch’s wife was known as “Joan.” The first written notation of a performance of a Punch show in England is recorded as May 9, 1662—a date which is considered the birthday of “Mr. Punch.” In his famous diary, English statesman Samuel Pepys noted that he had seen in Covent Garden, “an Italian puppet play, that is within the rails there, which is very pretty."

"Mr. Punch," Museum of Liverpool
The Punch figures themselves have changed drastically over the centuries—adapting from stick-operated puppets to marionettes and, then, to the traditional glove puppet we know today. Since Victorian times, the puppeteer in a Punch show is known as “Professor.” While each Professor’s Punch will differ slightly, his appearance always has a characteristically bulbous, ruddy nose which curves to meet his jutting chin. His lips are always pulled back into a red smile which nestles into his rosy cheeks. Though inspired by Punch, his French cousin, Guignol, has less-severe features. Often portrayed as a hunchback, Punch stoops under the weight of the enormous stick or club which he uses to beat his wife and child.

However, despite the beatings, Punch is not entirely a malicious character. While Punch’s story varies from puppeteer to puppeteer, the gist of it remains that though Punch struggles with his wife and baby, he also must fight a greater force—often law and order (as a form of social commentary), and very often, something more sinister and supernatural. Most Punch plays end with Punch’s triumphant cry, “Huzzah, huzzah! I killed the Devil!”

Originally performed for adults, the Punch shows invariably attracted children. They were performed in portable and permanent outside venues in places such as Covent Garden and other public venues. These puppet shows were a staple of sea-side resorts as well and proved ever-popular.

Punch has inspired songs, films, books, magazines and a host of other art forms. In his role as struggling every man—at once comic and tragic—Punch continues to be as popular a figure today as he was almost four hundred years ago. The puppets may change, but the spirit of Punch remains the same.


Painting of the Day: Portrait of a Soldier by William J. McCloskey, 1937

Born in Philadelphia in 1859, William Joseph McCloskey showed a vast artistic talent at an early age. Fiercely devoted to his studies, William J. McCloskey enjoyed surrounding himself with other Pennsylvanian artists. One artist in particular was a frequent companion of McCloskey’s, artist Alberta Binford. The two married and moved to Los Angeles where they soon were recognized as the shining stars of the American art world. In 1885, the duo moved to New York, and then, embarked on a world-wide journey to continue to perfect their art. Both mainly focused on still lifes, however, they would occasionally paint a portrait—using the same painstaking attention to detail. Known for his exceptional handling of light and shadow, and almost-photographic realism, William J. McCloskey’s still lifes hang in the finest museums in the world.


I happened to find this portrait by McCloskey in a Dallas-area antique store. Dated 1937 next to his signature, the painting shows the determination of a brave American soldier. I remember the day I found this painting quite well. I was on crutches after injuring my foot. Quite exhausted after galumphing around the antique store, I recall the person at the desk asking if the subject was a relative. There is, apparently, a bit of a resemblance between myself and the subject. Regardless, I’m pleased to have this special painting in the collection. McCloskey has realistically captured the strength and intelligence of a man who deserves to be remembered.

Recommended Reading: The Poetry of Jason Roush

Cover courtesy of Jason Roush
Superbly crafted with impeccable phrasing and clear imagery, Jason Roush’s poetry proves that he is one of the best new poets in his field. His three books of poetry, Crosstown, After Hours and Breezeway show a mastery of his art. Both personal and far-reaching, these works are moving and evocative.


John Skoyles, the author of The Situation, had this to say of Crosstown:

Jason Roush has a brilliant command of the line and an almost pointillist way of combining exact, exquisite phrases into sweeping vistas. At once tender and humane, the poems in Crosstown display a rare intelligence and character. The collection is not only well-written, but well-told—the voice is sly and warm, and the whole book is good company.

And, Richard McCann, author of Mother of Sorrows, says the following of Breezeway:

In these spare and lyrical poems, Jason Roush writes, like the great Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, about the ordinary, passing moments of our lives, which are ‘suspended / over the swift water of years // that cannot last or happen again.’ These poems—at once so wry and conversational, so ardent and precise and unafraid of feeling—remind us in their beauty that we are all living in the ‘breezeway of time,’ in that long, open passage between all that seems lost and all that still remains.

I heartily recommend these sparkling collections of poetry. Many thanks to Jason for taking us one step further into our own Belle Époque.



Decorating Tip: Beef-up Your Architecture

An Eastlake Style Cornice
Rooms are more than just walls, floors and ceilings. A space is really defined by the architecture of the room. Whether your home is sleek and modern or overflowing with gingerbread, the character of your décor comes from the prevalent moldings and architectural details.


An easy and inexpensive way to change the look of a room is to add some decorative molding. The addition of crown molding gives a room a more finished look and radiates a comfortable sense of tradition. If you already have crown molding, adding a “picture rail” (a narrower strip of molding), four or five inches below the crown, will bring grandeur and height to the room. Picture rails were originally used, as the name would suggest, as a means of suspending pictures from the molding so that the delicate plaster of the walls would not be marred by holes.

Creating a cornice or a pediment above a door or window gives the opening more importance and also serves to make your room appear taller. Similarly, adding a chair rail or wainscoting gives weight to the room and can make it seem larger.

If the idea of using a miter box and a saw to cut molding seems a little overwhelming, you can always achieve the same effect with paint. Using painters’ tape and some creativity, you can create the look of paneling, cornices, and other decorative moldings very inexpensively. Use your imagination. Any room in your home can emulate your favorite style of architecture.

Term for the Day: Eastlake

An ebonized Eastlake pedestal.
The Nineteenth-Century Eastlake Movement in architecture and the decorative arts takes its name from Charles Eastlake, a writer and architect. Popular during the late Victorian period, the Eastlake Movement’s influence is seen most heavily in home furnishings and in the gingerbread ornamentation of the late Queen Anne Style. Charles Eastlake’s book, Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery, and Other Details, set the standard for furnishings and design of the time and argued that objects for the home should be hand-crafted or, at the very least, made by machine-workers whose pride in their work was unquestionable.


The Eastlake style is broadly defined by geometric patterns, incised decorations, heavy cornices, spindles, finials, alternating wood tones, and carvings inspired by the lines of nature. Charles Eastlake’s desire was that his furnishings would be easy to maintain and be long-lasting. And, long-lasting, they were. Eastlake style furnishings have stood the test of time and can often be found in extremely good condition.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 15

Robert gently placed his arm around Julian’s waist and led him from the dining room. Julian smiled at the painted countenances of the ethereal women in the frescoes that lined the room. They approved of him and he was pleased by their appreciation. All but one, Julian noticed, seemed to nod their consent. She—a dark-haired beauty—painted in a pink gown held her grapes aloft and scowled at Julian as he walked from the room with Mr. Halifax. She looked, Julian thought, very much like his sister. Or did she? No. She was too soft to be Lady Barbara. She was someone else. She was Barbara Allen. Indeed, she was, for at the brushstrokes of her slippered feet grew a briar.

“The red rose and the briar,” Julian muttered as the sharpness of the sea air stung his nostrils.

“Lord Fallbridge,” Mr. Halifax whispered gently into Julian’s ear, “I’m terribly concerned.”

“You know, Mr. Halifax,” Julian grinned broadly so that he could almost feel his lips touch his ears, “My surname is Molliner.”

“I know.” Mr. Halifax responded. “However, your title…it’s a courtesy.”

“Those of us with empty heads know no courtesy.” Julian laughed. “We know only the feeling of others’ hands inside of us—tickling the space where our hearts should beat and scratching the undersides of our skulls with their untrimmed nails.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Mr. Halifax held Julian tighter.

Julian chuckled, “Don’t you? Look how you move me so. Look how you give me motion. You’re kinder than most, dear man. Or, you seem to be. I cannot tell until you make me speak.”

“Let’s return you to your cabin. I’ll have a tray brought up to you.” Mr. Halifax paused.

“No.” Julian shook his head. “I wish to be reunited with my cousin. Guignol and I have much to discuss, and, besides that, I wish to speak with you further. I did, after all, agree to meet you today. Look, there. We must hurry.”

Julian tugged at Mr. Halifax so that they walked briskly to the other end of the vessel where the sweaty French performers were packing up their collapsible theater.

Le pardon, monsieur. Où mon cousin est ? Je dois parler à Guignol.” Julian asked breathlessly.

“Sir?” The man responded in English.

“I wish to speak to Guignol.” Julian panted. “You see, he knows my father. And, most assuredly can tell me what became of Julian’s sister. You know, she bore a bastard.”

“Lord Fallbridge, please.” Mr. Halifax squeezed Julian’s waist.

The Frenchman laughed.

“You are intéresser homme. Très drôle. Guignol, ah, is sleeping.” The man teased, pointing to a leather case. “You come back this afternoon, eh?”

“I must see him now.” Julian became frantic. “You see, I am lost. You of all people would understand. I need to find my master. I cannot function without him. And, frankly, there’s such a pain in my head as though I’ve been cut—torn—I am in pain. And, I am afraid. Don’t be fooled by my grin. It’s immovable. It’s meaningless! I am lost. Lost, lost, lost. Guignol, he knows…he can help. And you, monsieur, you have put him in that case. I, too, know how that can be. Free him, let him help me. Let us both breathe!”

The Frenchman laughed again. “L'anglais. Très drôle.” He smiled, “Such a man. Now, listen, monsieur, your friend, he looks like he wants his breakfast. You two go on.”

“Yes, let’s do.” Mr. Halifax guided Julian away from the puppeteer. “Thank you, monsieur.” He handed the man a few coins.

“Mr. Halifax, I have not concluded my business.” Julian protested.

“You have, Your Lordship.” Mr. Halifax said firmly.

“I don’t want to have to fight you.” Julian growled. “I have been known to hit!”

Robert spun Julian around and grabbed him by his shoulders firmly—looking him squarely in the face. “Lord Fallbridge!”

“Molliner.”

Mr. Halifax shook Julian’s shoulders. “Julian!”

Suddenly the sweet, loving blackness floated away and the squirming sunlight etched Julian’s eyes.

He looked at Mr. Halifax, stunned.

Robert took his hands from Julian’s shoulders.

“How…”

“Let’s return to your cabin, Lord Fallbridge.”

Julian nodded. He began to look around. People had started to pour out onto the decks to enjoy the morning sun. Julian felt very afraid.

“Shall I take your arm?” Robert asked.

“I don’t know.” Julian said blankly.

“Allow me, please,” Mr. Halifax began, “to ask you an impertinent question.”

Again, Julian nodded.

“Who are you?”

“I am Julian, Lord Fallbridge.” Julian responded. “Who are you?”

“I remain, your champion, Sir.” Mr. Halifax responded, taking Julian’s arm and leading him to the narrow metal stairs.



Did you miss Chapters 1-14? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Accept your Flaws

She doesn't mind the hole in her chin.
Part of collecting antiques is accepting the fact that none of them are in perfect condition. Daily use and age cause slight damage which only adds to their beauty and character. Such is the case, also, with all of us. We are alive. We age. We function. We use our minds and our bodies each day. The act of living wears away at us—both externally and internally. No one and nothing are perfect.

Yet, so many of us strive for perfection and, in turn, expect perfection from the other people in our lives. The pursuit of perfection is an impossible quest. So, today, let’s begin to accept our flaws. From the physical scars we all carry to the lapses in our thought processes, we are inevitably going to show signs of being alive. Accept what’s wrong. Accept the character that you present.

When we learn to know ourselves and truly embrace the knicks and stains, we can begin to recognize our utmost beauty and value.

Object of the Day: An Eastlake Mirror

With a majestic crest and elegant finials this mirror graces the mantelpiece in my dining room. Two-tone wood and incised ornamentation are the hallmarks of Eastlake style. This piece is a perfect example of an Eastlake mirror from the articulated pilasters which support a cornice which extends over the mirror itself to the gently-turned finials.

Still retaining its gold leaf which perfectly contrasts the deep color of the maple, the design of the mirror reminds us of the love of nature and aesthetic design which predominated late Victorian furnishings. The mirror itself has lost some of it silvering—the battle-scars of a life well spent. These minor imperfections are what make antiques beautiful—a reminder of the permanence of human cleverness.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Term for the Day: Bobeche

A bobeche is a crystal or glass cup which surrounds the base of a candle to catch wax drippings. A bobeche can also surround the socket of a chandelier bulb-base. The bobeche often acts as a support for hanging prisms and crystals.


Adding a bobeche to an existing candleholder, sconce or chandelier is an excellent way to dress up the object without spending a lot of money.

For example, I added bobeche to a pair of wrought iron candle sconces and changed the whole look for hardly any expense. Bobeche can be removed from candleholders. So, if you want to add some sparkle to your table setting for a special occasion, you can do so easily. Just take them off and store them away when you want a simpler look.

Humanitarian of the Week: Niecy Nash

Miss Nash, courtesy of NiecyNash.com
The throaty laugh, the sincere smile, the energy, the flower in her hair—that’s what we think of when we recall the beautiful Miss Niecy Nash. Whether you know her from her work on comedies such as Reno 911, films such as Guess Who, reality TV shows such as Clean House, or from her recent appearance on Dancing With the Stars, you can agree that Niecy is the personification of joy and grace.


At the age of five, Niecy, while watching TV with her grandmother, saw Lola Falana for the first time and declared, “that’s what I want to do.” And, so, she did. With successes in a wide range of genres, Niecy Nash is the picture of the Hollywood success story—all without being the picture of the typical Hollywood star.

Miss Nash freely gives of her time to many causes. After losing a brother to youth violence, she has dedicated herself to stopping violence in our schools. Similarly, she valiantly fights to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence. She is also a crusader in the fights against HIV and breast cancer.

Niecy Nash is one of a rare group of people who uses her celebrity to influence change without seeking out the spotlight for her efforts. For this reason, Miss Nash is our “Humanitarian of the Week.”

Film of the Week: The Heiress, 1949

Clift and de Havilland, courtesy Paramount Pictures.
Timid and unsure of herself, Catherine Sloper lives in New York in the mid Nineteenth Century. She shares a magnificent Washington Square townhouse with her domineering father, Dr. Austin Sloper, who is continually disappointed by his fragile daughter. Often comparing Catherine to her late mother—a great beauty and his true love—he cannot reconcile the fact that such a superior creature bore such a dull child. Catherine’s one great skill, as Dr. Sloper puts it, is that she “embroiders neatly.” Upon the visit of her Aunt Lavinia, the family goes to celebrate the engagement of Catherine’s cousin. At the party, Catherine is shy though she is encouraged by Lavinia to be more outgoing. There, Catherine chances to meet the brother of the groom-to-be, one Morris Townsend, a stunningly handsome and charming man who, unexpectedly, lavishes Catherine with his attentions. Catherine soon falls in love with Morris and hopes her father will consent to their marriage. Dr. Sloper, however, believes Morris to be a fortune-hunter. Why would such a worldly and attractive young man love his daughter if not for her ample inheritance? And, so, Catherine goes to great lengths to find a way to wed Morris despite her father’s wishes. However, does Dr. Sloper prove to be correct in his assumptions?


de Havilland as Catherine, Paramount Pictures
This was the plot of Henry James’ 1880 novel Washington Square (said to be based on real events) which inspired a hugely successful stage play written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz in 1947. Academy Award winning actress, Olivia de Havilland, upon seeing The Heiress on Broadway lobbied to play Catherine Sloper in the film version. She got her wish.

Augustus and Ruth Goetz wrote the screenplay for the 1949 Paramount Pictures version of the story and masterful director William Wyler (most notable for his work with Bette Davis) was set to direct. With de Havilland as Catherine, Sir Ralph Richardson reprised the role of Dr. Austin Sloper—a part he made famous in the London West End production of the play. Legendary Miriam Hopkins (notoriously difficult to work with) was cast as Aunt Lavinia. However, who was to play Morris? Enter relative newcomer, Montgomery Clift. Clift had already had considerable success on Broadway and had made a name for himself in his debut films, The Search and Red River. Clift most certainly had the physical beauty to play Morris Townsend, but would he be suitable for a period drama? He proved to be perfectly cast though he was never satisfied with his performance in the film.

Clift as Morris, Paramount Pictures
The Heiress was a critical and box-office triumph. With crisp acting from the principle cast, lavish sets and a touching musical score by Aaron Copeland, the picture was considered one of the top films of the year with Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Director and winning the Academy Award for Best Actress (de Havilland), Best Scenic Design, Best Costumes, and Best Musical Score. De Havilland also took home a Golden Globe for her work as Catherine.

More suspenseful than the stage version, the picture is riveting and keeps you guessing about Morris’ intentions until the last moments of the film. For an enjoyable few hours and to learn something about the art of great picture-making, The Heiress is a must-see. As Catherine herself says, “I learned from masters…”




Building of the Week: St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans

The oldest, continually operating cathedral in the United States, St. Louis Cathedral stands proudly as the centerpiece of New Orleans’ famed Jackson Square. Three churches have stood on the site since the first was built in 1718. In 1789, the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, was given the status of Cathedral. The cathedral today bears little resemblance to the structure of 1789. In 1850, the cathedral was enlarged and drastically altered structurally. What remains today is the result of that 1850 remodeling. Two graceful spires flank a taller central steeple and clock. Pedimented, plastered and sporting Romanesque windows, the architecture of the building mixes the best of French, Spanish and American design.


Blazingly white in the sun, the cathedral is the jewel of the French Quarter as it proudly faces the Mississippi River. St. Louis Cathedral has withstood considerable damage over the centuries. In 1909, a bomb shattered windows and tore the galleries from the walls. Hurricanes—most notably in 1915 and, later Hurricane Katrina—have damaged the towers and roof. The high winds of Hurricane Katrina tore a hole in the roof, causing damage to the ornate plaster of the ceilings and to the historic pipe organ. This damage has since been repaired. The Cathedral is open to the public—both tourists and churchgoers—and continues to serve as a backdrop for the photos of millions of yearly visitors to the Crescent City who wish to preserve the memory of their moment in front of one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.


Punch's Cousin, Chapter 14

Arthur led Julian through passageways and down a narrow flight of metal stairs which vibrated slightly under their footsteps. The footman grasped Julian’s arm a little too tightly and Julian was reminded of a trip to London taken thirty years before when his governess held is arm with such ferocity that she left a bruise on his tender young flesh.


“Master Julian,” She had said in her sharp voice, “London is no place for a little boy. It’s dirty and angry. You must stay close.”

“But, you’re hurting me,” Young Julian had protested.

“Would you rather be snatched up and eaten alive by these people? Look at them, Master Julian! Look at them! Those hungry, hungry eyes!” She retorted, clutching him tighter. “Not a one of them would think twice about eating a little boy.”

As he and Arthur walked across the wide expanse of the Hyperion’s deck, Julian studied the eyes of those around him. They did look hungry. Perhaps “Nanny” had been correct. Everyone seemed to be staring at Julian and Arthur. Likely, they were wondering why a grown man—a man clearly a member of the peerage—was being guided by his valet like a child.

“You’re hurting me,” Julian said—partly from truth, partly from memory.

“Am I, Lord Fallbridge?” Arthur cooed, not relaxing his grip. “Only I want to see you safely to breakfast.”

Julian began to perspire despite the cool sea air and felt a cloying dampness rising under his waistcoat.

Several yards away from them on the deck, a performer had set up a portable puppet theater which immediately grabbed Julian’s attention.

“Punch.” Julian cried out.

But, no, it wasn’t Punch. The puppet’s nose was not bulbous. His costume was wrong. Children and adults all laughed and clapped—gathered in a crescent around the theater of thin wood and paper. A bright, cheerful crescent centered around the buzzing and nattering of the puppets.

Julian tugged at Arthur.

“I’d like to see the show.” Julian said softly.

“You’ll need to see Mr. Halifax, Your Lordship.” Arthur answered in a growl.

“No worries, man.” A voice said from behind them. “I’ll take His Lordship to see the program.”

Julian didn’t turn around. He knew who it was.

“As you wish, Mr. Halifax.” Arthur answered, releasing Julian from his grip.

Julian paused to tell Arthur to meet him on the deck in an hour, but the man had already gone.

“I trust I don’t need to hold on to you, Lord Fallbridge.” Robert Halifax patted Julian on his back.

“I’d prefer if you didn’t.” Julian nodded, still fixated on the puppet theater.

“You enjoy puppets?” Mr. Halifax asked.

“Most profoundly.” Julian mumbled. “I know one quite intimately.”

“This isn’t Punch, you know?” Robert said as they walked to the show.

Julian raised an eyebrow. What did that man know of Punch?

As they drew closer, Julian realized that the language being spoken was French.

“You see, this is…” Robert Halifax began.

“Guignol.” Julian interrupted. “Yes. He’s Guignol. The other is Gnafron.”

“That’s right.” Mr. Halifax nodded. “These performers are no doubt on their way to New Orleans where they’ll perform on the streets. They set up on the decks here to get some coins to supplement their passage money. Greedy buggers these street performers.”

“Not so greedy.” Julian shook his head. “Just trying to survive.”

“Shall we go closer?” Mr. Halifax asked.

“No.” Julian answered quietly. “This will do.”

They watched the show in silence for a few moments.

“Punch’s cousin.” Julian muttered.

“Pardon me, Lord Fallbridge?”

“Guignol. He’s Punch’s cousin. From France.” Julian mumbled. “My father is in France.”

“I know.” Mr. Halifax said gently. He slipped his arm into Julian’s.

As if awake for the first time, Julian looked at Mr. Halifax with shock.

“You’re not well, Lord Fallbridge.” Mr. Halifax smiled—a peculiar smile to which Julian was not accustomed, one of sympathy.

“No.”

“Shall we go in to breakfast? We’ll have other opportunities to see the show.”

“Yes.”

“Follow me.” Mr. Halifax said, taking his arm from Julian’s.

Julian did as instructed, glad to be away from the prickling light of the sun reflected off the sea.

The dining room was opulently decorated with frescoes of rose, azure and gold which blended into bucolic scenes of ruddy-cheeked young women in diaphanous gowns. They reclined peacefully on pillows and fed bright green grapes to one another.

Julian sat in a comfortable chair upholstered in pale green damask. On the golden table cloth, a bowl of sugar cubes glistened softly.

Julian felt his bowels turn to liquid. “Master, I am lost, lost, lost, lost…in the sugar cane.”

“Pardon me?” Robert Halifax asked.

“Oh, nothing.” Julian shook his head.

“I was quite pleased that you agreed to join me this morning, Lord Fallbridge.”

“I didn’t.” Julian narrowed his eyes.

“But, I received your note.”

“My note.” Julian’s heart raced.

“Would you prefer to go somewhere more private?”

Julian didn’t answer. Yes, he would prefer to go somewhere more private, but not with Mr. Halifax.

“No. I’m quite fine.” Julian answered.

“Your blue becomes you.” Mr. Halifax smiled again. “Much more so than your usual gray. And, that ring is most handsome. It’s not a sapphire.”

“No.” Julian shook his head. He swallowed hard.

“Your Lordship, Lady Barbara is in danger.” Mr. Halifax said in a hushed voice.

“How do you know this?” Julian said. “What do you know about this woman…this Iolanthe Evangeline. You say she’s called ‘The Elegant Ogress.’ Do you know her?”

“I do.”

“How?”

“I’d rather not say just yet.”

“Well, then, how do you hope to help me?” Julian felt the sweat trickle down his neck.

“I can tell you that she seeks out the most beautiful women in the world to work in her…establishment. She has people in every country who, shall we say, procure for her. She was told of your sister’s beauty and, oh, her passionate spirit. Of course, Iolanthe wanted Lady Barbara for her own.”

“Why?” Julian swallowed again. “Why would Barbara agree to such a thing? She’s a Lady. She was set to make a suitable marriage. She…”

“She’s a ruined woman, Sir.” Mr. Halifax answered. “I delivered her child myself.”

“Her…child?” The room spun around Julian. “You’re mistaken.”

“A boy. She calls him Caleb.”

“My sister was not with child. She couldn’t have been!”

“Yes, Lord Fallbridge. She was.”

Julian laughed a cold and hollow chortle though he wasn’t sure why.

“Who is the father?” He asked.

“That I do not know.” Mr. Halifax responded.

“How? How could she have hidden it?” Julian’s mind flooded with pictures of Barbara from the last few weeks. He’d seen so little of her, having so infrequently left his rooms.

Picture after picture burst into Julian’s thoughts—colors upon colors until they bled into black…a sweet, welcome blackness like a cozy blanket.

Some power inside Julian made him rise from the table. He opened his mouth and allowed words that were not his own to pour forth.

"If on your deathbed you do lie
What needs the tale you're tellin'?
I cannot keep you from your death.

Farewell," said Barbara Allen.

The others in the dining room turned to look at Julian.

“Lord Fallbridge?” Mr. Halifax rose. “Please, be seated. Let’s take breakfast.”

“No.” Julian shook his head. “I want to see Guignol. I want to see my cousin.”



Did you miss Chapters 1-13?  If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Organize

We’re all constantly on the go. As we rush around, the things that come into our lives tend to pile up. Bills, magazines, papers, purchases—we put them down with the promise that we’ll put them in their proper place when we have time. However, when do we find the time? By the end of a week, the stacks grow higher, and soon, they seem so insurmountable that we vow we’ll tackle the enormous task—when time permits.


Instead of making a huge amount of work for yourself by having to plow through vast collections of “stuff,” take a few minutes to put things away as they come. File your bills as soon as they’re paid. Keep a basket next to the couch to hold the magazines that you swear you’ll have time to read. When you buy a new shirt, hang it in the closet as soon as you get it home. You won’t have time to organize everything once it piles up, but you can find time—just a few seconds—the moment something new comes into the house.

I use an old toast rack on my desk. No, it doesn’t hold toast, but it does hold letters. Each slot into which a crunchy treat would have been nestled, now accepts correspondence that requires attention. Once dealt with, the remaining paper is filed in the appropriate category. Filing things is dull, but taking care of it as it comes is much easier than sorting through a mountain of paper at a later date.

You’ll find that cutting the unnecessary clutter out of your surroundings makes for a more peaceful and attractive home. And, frankly, in today’s world, any ticket to relaxation is a welcome one.