Saturday, August 28, 2010

At the Music Hall: “I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside,” 1907

At the sea, the cast of  Upstairs, Downstairs.
Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
I do like to be beside the sea!
I do like to stroll upon the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play: "Tiddely-om-pom-pom!"

You can still hear these words being sung at a good many English pubs late at night. This popular song, written in 1907 by John A. Clover-Kind was a favorite of the music hall crowds of the early Twentieth Century. A tune about a jubilant afternoon spent on the beach, it cheered people with images of August Bank Holiday and much-deserved, much-needed rest. In 1909, Mark Sheridan—a celebrated performer of his day—made this song one of his signature tunes. As the English working class was given more freedom to take trips to the seaside, this continued to be a much beloved song—symbolic of their rise in station.

At some point in your life, you’ve no doubt heard this song. It has been featured in a variety of films and television shows for as long as those media have existed. One famous rendition is from the 1939 film “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” in which Basil Rathbone (as Holmes in disguise) gives a rousing rendition of this fun song. A clip is below.

Where to Shop: Lots of Furniture, Dallas

Riverfront Boulevard (formerly Industrial Parkway) in Dallas is lined with antique shops. One of the most interesting of the bunch is Lots of Furniture. Essentially a large warehouse, “Lots” is packed to the gills with an array of interesting antiques of an ever-changing assortment. From architectural pieces and windows to fine chandeliers and clocks, everything you could possibly imagine is available at Lots of Furniture.

Their selection of paintings is excellent as is the varied assortment of antique objects that’s available to you. Truly the home of some of the most unusual antiques in Dallas, if you’re in the area, you must visit Lots of Furniture. Just know going in that this is not a swanky gallery, you’ve got to be ready to dig around. There’s too much inventory to display it like a museum. By far, this is the most active antique store in town. For more information, visit their Web site.

Decorating Tip: Windows to the Outside

We spend so much time decorating the insides of our homes, we often forget that the outside spaces are just as much a part of the house. If you have a front or back porch that could use a little color and excitement, you might consider hanging some salvaged windows from the porch beams, facing the outside.

Many antique stores have stained and leaded glass windows that have been rescued from old homes that have been, sadly, demolished. These windows are quite beautiful, and, often can be purchased in expensively. While you can display them within your home, I like to hang them outside from heavy industrial chain. They gently sway in the breeze, catching the light and sending pleasing colors around the porch. It’s a great way to add charm and elegance to an outdoor space without a lot of work and expense.

Term for the Day: Fluting

Vertical or horizontal, shallow grooves carved into a flat surface are referred to as fluting. Since the earliest days of architecture fluting has been used to decorate columns, pilasters and moldings. Fluting is an integral design element in architecture, furniture design and the decorative arts.

In Victorian architecture, fluted trim often surrounded windows and doors. The fluted pieces were usually capped at the corners by decorative blocks called rosettes. This style of trim is still employed in modern architecture.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 30

Robert laid out a suit of clothes for Julian and Mr. Punch. He selected a camel-colored jacket, purple waistcoat and gold cravat.

“Oh, aren’t we going to look like a right proper gentleman?” Punch laughed. “Only I like red. Red’s the color what I like to wear.”

“Very well.” Robert sighed, replacing the gold cravat with one of deep crimson.

“The collars are in that black box.” Punch grinned.

“Yes, I gathered that they would be.” Robert nodded.

“And, don’t forget the stickpin.” Punch rose and stood next to Robert, peering over his shoulder. “The jewel case is in the wardrobe—right there.”

Robert found the case and opened it, revealing a glittering array of pins, watch fobs and rings.

“Say, I like the ruby one with them little diamonds.” Punch pointed to a particular stickpin. “The one what’s got the lady’s face on it.”

Robert removed the stickpin from the case.

“Then, that’s the one you shall wear.” Robert replied as cheerfully as he could.

“So, what are we gonna do, Doctor?” Punch asked, removing Julian’s bloodied collar and shirt. As he did, Robert noticed something peculiar.

“Where did you get those bruises?” Robert asked, pointing to Julian’s torso.

“Huh?” Punch asked, looking in the mirror at Julian’s chest. “Dunno. ‘Spect I got ‘em when I fought those rough blokes at the Guignol show.”

“No, those are older bruises. They’re not recent.” Robert shook his head.

“Dunno,” Punch shrugged, reaching for the fresh shirt.

“Don’t you want to freshen up, first?” Robert asked, pointing to the basin.

“Not ‘specially.” Punch frowned.

“Human men tend to wash themselves from time to time.”

“Ain’t human.” Punch laughed.

“No, but Julian is. I think he’d appreciate it if you cleaned himself up a tad.” Robert smiled.

“Fine,” Punch grumbled, going to the basin and dampening a flannel. “Sorry lot of work these bodies are, always getting wet and smelly. Now, I don’t have these problems what with me body being made of cloth.”

“I imagine that you don’t.” Robert chuckled. “Would you like my help?

“No!” Punch spat. “I think I can wash meself.”

“Very well,” Robert nodded. “Now, Mr. Punch are you certain that you can play this game with me?”

“Sure, I can. I can do anything.” Punch said, sloshing the water in the basin so that it splattered onto the floor.

“You’re sure that you can pretend to be Julian?” Robert asked.

“Nothin’ to it.” Punch said confidently. “I only got to look nervous, fiddle with me ring and be pale.”

“There’s more to Lord Julian than that.” Robert reminded the puppet. “You know, he speaks a bit differently than you do.”

“Of course, my good man.” Punch responded in Julian’s voice. “I certainly think I can make a good show of portraying my master. After all, I have been at it for quite some time.”

“That was very nicely done.” Robert smiled. “Do you often impersonate His Lordship?”

“When I have to.” Punch answered in his own voice.

“Have you ever done it with me?” Robert asked.

“No,” Punch grumbled. “Always got the feelin’ you’d know the difference.”

“Indeed I would.” Robert agreed.

“Don’t think this Nanny will. She’s not seen Julian in years. She don’t know.”

“No. She won’t know. Besides, I’ll do most of the talking.” Robert helped Punch with his shirt and collar.

“I can dress me-self!” Punch growled.

“I know. I’m simply trying to be useful.” Robert smiled, buttoning the collar.

“If you’re gonna be useful, help me with that scarf thing.” Punch squinted.

“So, you remember what we’re going to do?” Robert asked, wrapping the cravat around Julian’s throat.

“Yeah.” Punch smiled. “We’re gonna talk to the sow of a nanny, then, we’re gonna hit her with a stick and toss her in the sea.” He added slyly.

“No.” Robert shook his head. “The former is correct, the latter is not. The part about the hitting and the tossing.”

“I’m just making my fun with you, Doctor.” Punch sighed.

“I can never be sure with you.” Robert responded pleasantly.

“No, you can’t.” Punch laughed.

Once the man was finally dressed, Robert studied Julian’s body.

“So, how do I look?” Punch asked.

“You look quite handsome. Just like Lord Julian.”

“Lucky bloke don’t got a hunchback.” Punch responded, looking at himself in the glass.

“And, you’ll remember what we’re going to say?” Robert asked.

“I’m no idiot!” Punch replied sharply. “I can play the game. Remember, I beat…”

“The Devil, I know.” Robert nodded.

“Cheeky.” Punch grumbled.

“Let’s go, then, shall we?” Robert asked, heading toward the cabin door. “The note that I had the porter bring Nanny Rittenhouse said we’d meet her in her cabin at half past ten. We don’t want to be late.”

“Course not.” Punch said, watching the Doctor open the door. When Robert’s back was turned, Punch grabbed the paper knife from the desk and tucked it into Julian’s jacket.

“You’re prepared, then?” Robert asked as Punch followed him out.

“Most certainly prepared, Mr. Halifax.” Punch answered in Julian’s voice, his eyes glinting with wild glee.

Did you miss Chapters 1-29? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, August 30, for the next chapter of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Let Your Light Shine

Every single one of us is exceptional in different ways. We each have within us, the ability to do great things for our communities, our families and ourselves. All too often, we let our own insecurities and doubts dampen our inner light. Today, let your light shine.

Go into the world fully armed with the awareness that you are a magnificent person with a tremendous capacity to do good works. One of the easiest ways of showing your inner light is to greet everyone you see with a gentle smile and alert eye-contact. That act alone—a pleasant greeting—will do wonders in making a difference in the world. Pleasantness only breeds more pleasantness.

Object of the Day: Ecclesiastical French Candle Stand

At just over four feet tall, this French wooden candle stand was once used in a church as part of a pair. Crafted around 1870, the base is lathe-turned with hand carved fluting. The top sports an enormous spike which would have held a large candle in place. Candle holders such as this were utilized to flank the altar in Catholic church. Ebonized, with gold details, I was drawn to this object because of its stately proportions.

I’ve noticed a huge glut of ecclesiastical items in antique stores lately. It’s as if all of the old churches in the world have had huge garage sales lately. From candle stands to prayer rails to pulpits, church-related items seem to have flooded the antique market. I’m not quite sure why. Nevertheless, this item adds an imposing charm to my front hallway. Now, if only I could find a suitably beefy candle…

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Fun: Behind the Puppet

I leave you on this fine Friday night with a little interview with one “Professor Jingles”—a notable English Punch performer. This glimpse behind the scenes of a Punch and Judy show is quite enjoyable. I almost shared with you a terrifying little gem called “Santa Clause, Punch and Judy,” but found it to be a little too…well, just too. That 1948 bit of fun is on YouTube if you’d like to see it. Otherwise, enjoy this interesting interview.

Term for the Day: Diadem

"The Diamond Diadem" from The Royal Collection.
Yesterday, while discussing the Parure of the Empress Marie-Louise, I mentioned the term, “diadem.” A diadem is a type of crown, specifically one that fits around the upper forehead like a headband. The term also refers to a jeweled half-crown which is worn over the forehead. These are more commonly called a tiara.

One of the most famous diadems in the world is “The Diamond Diadem” made in 1820 for British King George IV. Since its creation for George IV’s lavish 1821 coronation, this diadem has been worn exclusively by female royals and is one of the most recognizable pieces of the Queen’s collection of jewelry. Designed by master jewelers, Rundell, Bridge and Company, the diadem features 1,333 diamonds, including a four-carat pale yellow brilliant in the center of the front cross. The diamonds, set in gold and accented by pearls for the emblems of the countries in the British Empire: England, Scotland and Ireland. The piece is so well-known, it is even featured on a postage stamp. Today, this diadem is part of the Royal Collection.

"Mr. Punch" in the Arts: "Punch Hanging the Devil," 1841

Image From Punch Magazine.
Throughout Mr. Punch’s English evolution, he increasingly began to represent the voice of the people and became a tool by which satirical commentary could be proffered without fear of retribution. In 1841, Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells founded Punch Magazine—taking the name from the popular puppet as well as a personal pun that they shared with their contributor, Mark Lemon, “Punch is nothing without Lemon.”

Punch Magazine gave rise to a new style of parody and political commentary and is credited as being the first publication to refer to a comic drawing as a “cartoon.” A conservative magazine, Punch offered sophisticated humor without the threat of vulgarity, and was soon welcomed into the finest drawing rooms and clubs. The magazine grew in popularity until the 1940’s. Soon, its readership slowly declined. The magazine closed in 1992. Mohammed Al-Fayed’s 1996 remake of Punch Magazine was a dismal failure.

Image From Punch Magazine.
Still, many copies of Punch remain today and offer us a glimpse at the art, politics and humor of one hundred and fifty years of British history. I’m particularly fond of the magazine’s first cover. The engraving by Landelis depicts Mr. Punch triumphantly hanging the Devil (a favorite pastime of his). The wild look of glee on Mr. Punch’s face just makes me smile.

Decorating Tip: Stenciling

You want to add some interest and architectural detail to a room without the long-term commitment and complicated labor of adding molding. The solution is stenciling. Your local craft store will offer you a huge selection of stencils which, with a little creativity, can be applied to many different surfaces.

You can stencil a border along a chair rail or crown molding. You can stencil a pattern onto a wall in lieu of expensive and hard-to-remove wallpaper. You can even stencil your floor or ceilings.

All you’ll need is some clean artist’s brushes, the stencil of your choice, some painters tape to hold the stencil in place, and paint in a color that works with you room. If you don't find a pre-made stencil you like, you can even make your own. You shouldn’t feel constrained. I have even had good results using metallic paint—silver and gold, to add a little interest to a room. The best part about stenciling is that if you don’t like it or get bored with it, all you have to do is paint it over.

Odd Antique Image of the Day: “Non Angeli sed Angli,” 1857

Image from The Royal Collection.
They’re not angels. They’re English. Prince Albert was a great admirer of the work of photographer O.G. Rejlander and collected many of his photographs. This image from the Royal Collection comes from an album of photographs produced especially for Prince Albert. Rejlander’s inspiration for this photo was, obviously, the two famous putti from Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. The title refers both to the fact that these are not Raphael’s celebrated cherubs, but rather, ordinary English children and also alludes to a tale told of St. Gregory. As the story goes, St. Gregory spotted English children in a Roman slave market. 'He... asked, what was the name of that nation? and was answered, that they were called Angles. Right, said he, for they have an angelic face, and it becomes such to be coheirs with the angels in heaven.' That apocryphal tale was a favorite whimsical yarn of the Prince’s.

Raphael's Angels: Dresden State Art Musuem
This image represents a time when photography was still a new technology which, naturally, was drawing its inspiration from more traditional art forms. While vastly different in technology, it’s a similar notion that encouraged e-book designers to make the pages appear to “turn” on the screen as if you were flipping through a real book. New things fascinate us, but, in our hearts, we long for the comfort of the familiar and traditional.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 29

A dull pain awakened Robert who slowly opened his eyes into an uncomfortable squint. He rubbed the stiffness in his neck with the wide palm of his hand, and then, brushed the wisps of sandy hair from his forehead with his long fingers.

Julian—or Punch (he couldn’t be sure)—was curled up in a ball at one end of the long, narrow bed, still dressed in his bloodied collar, shirt and waistcoat. Robert raised his shoulders to his ears and stretched his aching back—tender from sleeping propped against the paneled wall of the cabin. He untangled his legs from the bedclothes, careful not to disturb the slumbering man at the other end of the bed.

The familiar scratching at the door signaled Arthur’s entrance. Robert groaned audibly. When had morning crept up on them?

“Mornin’, Doctor.” Arthur grinned—his hatred visible through the thick, ochre tombstones of his teeth.

“I must have fallen asleep here.” Robert responded, suddenly feeling the need to explain why he was still there. “I was looking after Lord Julian.”

“Must have done.” Arthur said. “Will you be wanting anything?”

“Some breakfast, I think. Something hot. Boiled eggs and toast.” Robert glanced at Julian who had not stirred. “And some coffee.”

“Very good, Sir.” Arthur answered, smirking. “I’d best be waking His Lordship so I can dress him.”

“That’ll do, Arthur. Just fetch us a tray. I’ll take care of His Lordship.”

“Only…” Arthur protested.

“That’ll do, Arthur.” Robert repeated.

Arthur shot an angry look to the doctor, but did as instructed, slamming the cabin door behind him.

The sound caused Julian (or Punch) to whimper like a napping dog.

Robert leaned over and put his hand on Julian’s shoulder.

The touch made Julian’s eyes dart open and he scrambled off of the bed, landing with a thud to the floor.

“You still here?”

“Yes, Mr. Punch.” Robert nodded.

“I was hoping to take my breakfast with Julian.”

“Julian’s got other things to occupy him right now.” Punch said, spreading out on the floor and stretching.

“Such as?” Robert asked.

“He’s in there, crying his eyes out. Only he doesn’t have eyes cuz I’ve got ‘em right now. Sad ‘bout his father, I ‘spect.” Punch answered.

“So, you’re aware of what Julian’s doing, where Julian is not aware of what you’re doing?”

“I ‘spose.” Punch shrugged, sitting up. “If anyone of us is the strongest, it’ll be me—even though I’m wounded what with me head bein’ cracked in two.” Punch sniffed the air. “I smell the valet. Was he here?”

“Yes.” Robert nodded. “He’s gone to fetch us some breakfast.”

“Vittles! I’m hungry.”

“That’s something, at least.” Robert thought to himself.

Punch smiled at the man. “You’re thinking things again.”

“Always.” Robert nodded.

“Too much thinkin’s what makes those crinkles at the corners of your eyes. You wouldn’t be a bad looking man if it weren’t for that.” Punch laughed. “You’ve got a nice face as far as human’s faces go, and you’re tall with a straight back and shoulders.”

“Thank you.” Robert chuckled.

“I’m not so tall, you know. I’ve got a hunchback.” Punch frowned. “Course my back is hunched what with the weight of my head and all.”

“Of course.” Robert agreed. “But, Julian doesn’t have a hunched back.”

“No. I ‘spose that’s one good thing about bein’ in here. Julian’s not so bad to look at either in his own pale way. Got a pleasant face even if he does look like Her Bleedin’ Grace.”

“Now, now, Mr. Punch.” Robert smiled.

“Wanna sing with me?” Punch jumped up and sat on the bed next to Robert. “Come on, we’ll sing of the ‘red rose and the briar.’”

“It’s a little too early to be singing—for me.” Robert shook his head.

“People.” Punch grunted.

“Any idea when Julian might be back?” Robert asked. “I would like to speak with him.”

“No telling.” Punch shrugged. “’Sides, I’ve got things what need doing today. Let him sit in there and cry.”

“Still, I would like to talk with him.”

“Talk with me. I’m much more interesting.” Punch winked.

“Very well,” Robert grinned. “Tell me about the Molliner Blue.”

“My mind!” Punch nodded eagerly. “Our father found it in India and bought it from some man what stole it from some kind of prince or somesuch.”


“The Duchess had it changed and put in a necklace for herself to wear during the ‘season.’ She even started calling it ‘The Fallbridge Blue’ only we know it’s really a Molliner like me. Oh, my father didn’t like that. Only, Sir Colin went and replaced it with a sapphire when she weren’t lookin’. The mad thing didn’t even know the difference!” Punch laughed. “See, he mighta seemed like he was a weakling, that one, but he got his way even if it were sneaky.”

“What happened to the real diamond?” Robert asked.

“Sir Colin gave it to me for safekeeping—cuz everyone knows I’m the only one in the family what can be trusted.”

“And where did you keep it safe?” Robert asked.

“In me head!” Punch laughed. “Oh, but that hurt, it did. Sir Colin put it inside me head, just underneath me cap—sewed it right inside. All I could do not to cry out. But, I liked it once it were in. Gave me lots of thoughts and fire in my eyes. I ‘spect he figured no one would know it was in me head what with me just sittin’ in Julian’s cabinet all the time.”

“And, Julian knew about this?”

“Sure, he did. Probably forgot by now. He’s not right, that one. You know. But, sure he knew. It was long ago when that Barbara was just a child. Long before Julian left to live in Belgrave Square—left me at Fallbridge Hall, he did. I didn’t like that much. So, I went with him in his head and left me body in the case.”

Robert nodded, trying to sort out everything that Punch was saying.

“Someone took the diamond from your head? That’s why your head was split?” Robert asked.

“Yes.” Punch nodded. “’Twas Lady Barbara. Cruel Barbara.” Punch laughed and began to sing.

"Farewell," she said, "ye virgins all,
And shun the fault I fell in.
Henceforth take warning by the fall
Of cruel Barbara Allen."

“You know for a fact that it was Barbara who stole the diamond?”

“I’m singing.” Punch frowned.

“I know. But, we need to sort this out.”

“Musta done.” Punch shrugged. “Who else?”

“Did you see who took it?”

“Now how could I very well have seen if Julian were using our eyes?” Punch asked.

“But, you seem to know what Julian knows. So, if Julian saw Barbara take it, you must have seen it, too.”

“See, you’re thinking too much.” Punch smiled. “Don’t you ever just know something without thinking ‘bout it?”

“I guess that’s the difference between us, Mr. Punch.”

“Wait a tick,” Punch said. “I’ve an idea. Let’s go get Arthur and push him in the sea.”

“Then we won’t get our breakfast.” Robert answered quickly.

“Right.” Punch frowned again.

“However, I do have an idea that might amuse you—if you’re willing.”

“I’m listening.” Punch pulled Julian’s lips back into a grin.

“Why don’t we go see Nanny Rittenhouse?”

“And push her into the sea?” Punch widened Julian’s eyes.

“No.” Robert shook his head.

“But, we could play a game with her. A game that might help both of us.”

“Then, we could push her in the sea?”

“No.” Robert said again.

“But, we might be able to fix your head.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-28?  If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Encouragement

Most of the time, the act of existing can seem like a thankless job. Everyone needs some encouragement now and again. That’s why it’s so important to let the people around you know when they’re doing something well, and to remind them that they are doing good things. When the opportunity presents itself today, let the people in your life know that they matter—that they’re valuable and that you appreciate them.

Most importantly, encourage yourself. After all, each of us can really only rely on ourselves. I know it sounds corny, but we have to be our own best friend. Encourage yourself today. Remind yourself that you have worth, that you are capable of wonderful works and exceptional thoughts. Confidence is contagious.

Object of the Day: Papier Mache and Crystal Desk Set

As we’ve already discovered, English Victorian craftsmen were able to use papier mache for a variety of applications. This durable, attractive material was well-suited for use in every room in the home. This elegant desk set is further evidence of that.

Formed from thick layers of papier mache, this scalloped desk set holds an exquisite heavy crystal inkwell which nestles into a perfectly fitted slot. An indentation has been included to hold the pen. The piece is decorated with inlaid mother-of-pearl which flanks the inkwell and forms a border around the entire piece.

Most likely this was one part of an entire suite of desk furnishings which would have included a slotted letter holder, blotter, and paper knife. The surviving piece is in excellent condition, and, in fact, shows no sign of being used despite its one hundred and fifty years of existence. Now, it’s earned the right to be purely ornamental. However, seeing it does make me long for the days when writing a letter was an event and not simply a click of the mouse.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mastery of Design: The Emerald Parure of the Empress Marie-Louise

Image courtesy of the Louvre Museum
This magnificent emerald and diamond parure, on display with the collection of the French Crown Jewels at the Louvre, was originally part of a suite presented by Napoleon I to Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria on the occasion of their wedding in 1810. The necklace and earrings were later bequeathed to Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany.

The necklace is a stunning collection of 32 emeralds (the center emerald weighs 13.75 carats), 874 brilliant cut diamonds, and 264 rose cut diamonds. The emeralds exhibit a rare clarity and alternate between oval and lozenge-shaped stones, surrounded by diamonds. The emeralds are separated by palmettes, each of which encloses a small round emerald. A pear-shaped emerald surrounded by diamonds hangs from each large emerald. The centerpiece of each earring is a large emerald surrounded by brilliant cut diamonds.

The original parure consisted of the necklace, earrings, a tiara and a comb. The diadem and comb no longer exist in their original states. This masterpiece was designed by François-Regnault Nitot of the celebrated jeweler, Etienne Nitot et fils.

The parure has a rich and colorful history. In 1953, the descendants of the Grand Duke sold the necklace to Van Cleef & Arpels. The tiara was broken apart and the emeralds were sold individually. The tiara’s framework was sold to an American collector who set turquoise in the place of the missing emeralds. That piece now resides in the Smithsonian, though it can hardly be considered part of the original set anymore. The comb was completely destroyed. Fortunately, the necklace and earrings remain in tact and were donated to the Louvre in 1988. Thankfully, we can continue to enjoy this beautiful work of the jeweler’s art. If only stones could talk…

Gem of the Week: The Elegant Emerald

Fleur de Lis Emerald Ring, 1850, from The Three Graces
The emerald is a member of the beryl family of minerals and gets its famous green color from chromium. Emeralds have long been celebrated for their beauty and depth of color. Finding a “clean” emerald is a difficult task these days. Most emeralds are heavily included—meaning that other, unwanted minerals become trapped in the stone during the formation of its crystals. These inclusions dull the color and clarity of the stone. The clearer the stone, the more valuable the emerald.

The Egyptians were among the first to mine and prize the emerald, often making it the centerpiece of their jewelry. At the time, stones without inclusions which exhibited excellent clarity were judged as being “as clear as water.” The standard of an emerald’s “water” remained a concept that was employed well into the twentieth century. The birthstone for May, the emerald has long been considered to have mystical and enchanting properties. So much so that L. Frank Baum called the kingdom of his great Wizard of Oz, “The Emerald City.” Victorian jewelers were particularly fond of the emerald because of its color and the natural association of the color green with nature.

Today, fine emeralds are among the most valuable of gemstones. If you’re a jewelry collector, save up your money and spend it on an emerald of the best clarity that you can find. The value will only increase over time.

Decorating Tip: Chandelier Shades

If you want to change the look of the lighting in your room, but like your existing chandelier or light fixture, an inexpensive way of dressing a light is the addition of clip-on shades. These small lamp shades fit over candelabra-shaped bulbs. They come in a variety of shapes and colors.

Not only do they dress up an existing fixture, they also serve to filter the light from exposed chandelier bulbs which can often be too harsh. You’ll be able to find the shade and shape which best suit your room. A simple online search will yield many results.

Term for the Day: Lamp Harp

A lamp harp is the metal framework which attaches to the base of the lamp and forms an arch over the light bulb and socket to hold the lampshade. Very often, the top of the harp can be adorned with a decorative finial. Selecting the correct size harp for your lamp is very important. If the harp is too large or too small, the shade will not fit properly. This can be visually problematic, but also can place the shade too close to the heat of the light bulb. Most lamps come with harps already, however, if you’re replacing the harp on an existing light, be sure that you select a size that will allow for proper ventilation and placement of the shade.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 28

Robert bravely wiped the blood from Julian’s face. Punch didn’t recoil, but let the doctor help him.

“You think by showing me some kindness, you’ll wash away your sins?” Punch hissed.

“I’m in a precarious position.” Robert replied gently. “Mr. Punch, you do have my loyalty. However, I do care for Julian. Since you both occupy the same body, what was I to do? Julian, justly, has a right to know that he shares the use of his shell with two minds. In order to treat one of you with respect, I needed to betray the confidence of the other.”

“Oh, poor doctor!” Punch laughed. “How difficult it must be for you.”

“It is rather.” Robert smiled.

Punch didn’t reply.

“You know very well that you won’t harm me.” Robert continued. “If for no other reason than you need me.”

“I need no one! I can beat the Devil!” Punch spat.

“Maybe so—when you are left to our own devices. However, as you say, you are lost, and rather trapped within Julian for the present. Julian needs me, ergo, you need me.” Robert leaned back on the bed—attempting to look at ease though he was anything but.

“Fix my head.” Punch growled.

“I can do nothing more than tend to Julian’s head.” Robert sat up again.

“Well, do that, then. Only it’s my head what’s split—cleaved in two!” Punch croaked.

“For now, Julian has a scrape.” Robert nodded. “I can only help with that.”

“So, do it!” Punch grumbled.

Robert pressed a clean cloth to Julian’s scalp. “You realize that he would have to know about you, Mr. Punch? You surely must have known that it was necessary.”

“I’m not sayin’ you’re correct.” Punch hissed. “Supposin’ it’s too much for the man?”

“Now that he knows, he will be of more assistance. Together, we can find you and restore you to what…whatever it is that you are.”

“I’m loathe to admit it,” Punch sighed, “only we do need you. Julian ain’t going to find Barbara by his own self. And, when we find Barbara, we’ll find me.”

“You’re sure of that?” Robert asked.

“Yes, yes, I’m sure!” Punch responded angrily. “My father is dead! He was the only one what knew of the secret in my head. Him and Julian. But, see Julian don’t remember. I’m guessing that Barbara somehow found out about the secret. That’s why my head got slashed. I know Julian didn’t tell her—maybe one of the others…”

“Others?” Robert asked, applying a bandage to Julian’s head.

“Never you mind about that!” Punch winced.

“What’s this secret you speak of?” Robert questioned the “puppet.”

“My mind!” Punch growled. “The thing what made me what I am!”

“Your spirit?” Robert squinted.

“No, you fool! My mind! That blue stone—all glittering and bright. My father’s treasure!”

Robert looked to the ring on Julian’s right hand—the blue diamond flashing a light of warning with each grasping of Punch’s will and Julian’s fist.

“The stone? I know of it. The Molliner Blue?”

“That’s what made me special.” Punch muttered. “But, she took it! Split my head, she did! I know she must have done.”

Robert drew in a deep breath. “You look weary, Mr. Punch. Perhaps you’d best let Julian come back for awhile.”

“No.” Punch grinned. “Julian ain’t no good to us now.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-27?  If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Learn About your Family

Most of us don’t know much about our families beyond the history of our grandparents. However, as we can see by the Guillemin family, every family history is rich and interesting. If you have older relatives that you can ask about your family history, learning about your ancestors can be enriching and enlightening. Many Web sites exist that offer a genealogy for almost every family on Earth. You may discover that your particular sensibilities and talents come from someone in your family tree. When you get a chance, take a few minutes to climb through those branches. You never know what you might find tucked amongst the leaves.

Object of the Day: A Sculpture by Émile Guillemin

Last week, I spotlighted one of my favorite paintings, Gypsy Woman with a Parrot by Alexandre Marie Guillemin—a piece which has become representative of our mission here at “Stalking the Belle Époque.” Another of my favorite objects is a sculpture by Émile Coriolan Hippolyte Guillemin—his son. Émile (1841-1907) achieved huge fame and success as a sculptor—commissioned to create bronzes of historical figures and the bucolic, allegorical scenes that were the height of popularity in the French art world of the mid to late Nineteenth Century.

This sculpture, Dans Le Roseaux, (Dance of the Reeds) is representative of Guillemin’s fantastic delicacy and fluidity as an artist. A young man, lithe and willowy, stands upon a field of reeds. His arm held aloft, he once held a bouquet of reeds which has been lost over time. Cast in “French Bronze,” the figure is defined by Guillemin’s characteristic crisp facial features and elongated limbs.

I’m proud to have reunited the works of two brilliant artists from the same family. They are displayed near each other, and I like to think that this somehow is a comfortable and fitting reunion for them both. We’re reminded that creativity and a sense for beauty can cross generational lines. In that, there’s much hope for our future.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Antique Painting of the Day: "The Unhappy Mother" by Louis Gallait

Image courtesy of Antwerp - PVSK Museum
Belgian history is rich with amazing artists. One of their finest, Louis Gallait, was born in 1810 and showed a genius for art at an early age. By twenty-two, his paintings were winning prizes as best in exhibition. Soon after, Gallait moved to Antwerp while he continued to study his craft.

In addition to epic historical paintings, he became known for his realistic and sentimental scenes such as this painting of a mother and her children which he called, The Unhappy Mother. While some criticized some of the maudlin themes in his art, his talent was widely celebrated, earning him a permanent place in art history.

Today, Gallait’s works are displayed in the finest museums in the world as he perfectly represents the depth of Belgian artistry.

Decorating Tip: Make Your Bed

Your bed should look inviting and comfortable. It should look like a place where you’ll be able to relax and escape the rigors of the world. One way to make your bed look and feel more comfortable is to add a few throw pillows. Be creative and play with different colors and textures. Of course, you’ll want to move all of them before you go to sleep, but the look of a sumptuous bed is worth a little extra work. When food looks good, it tastes better. So, I figure, if your bed looks good, you’ll sleep better.

Term for the Day: Spire

Deriving from the Anglo-Saxon word, “spear,” a spire is a pyramidal or conical embellishment atop a building, often capping a tower or cupola. A mainstay of Gothic architecture, people often associate spires with churches and steeples. The spire, does, after all, reach to the Heavens. However, traditionally, spires also signify a display of material wealth on the part of a church. Spires saw a resurgence in popularity as an architectural ornament during the Victorian era. Today, spires also grace modern structures. In fact, some, like the Space Needle, are simply free-standing spires—still reaching for the Heavens, and still heralding mortal success.

Building of the Week: The Hôtel de Ville, Brussels

The centerpiece of the Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium is the Brussels Town Hall which is known in French as the Hôtel de Ville and, in Dutch, the Stadhuis. This monumental Gothic building with its graceful spires and elegant statues has been an important feature of Brussels since the Fifteenth Century. The original section of the building (the left wing) was constructed from 1402 to 1420 under the direction of Jacob van Thienen. Originally, there were no plans to expand the building in the future. However, when craft guilds were added to the politics of Belgium, a need to enlarge the building became urgent.

By 1452, the building had taken the form we see today with the present tower being completed in 1455. The tower is a magnificent work of art, narrowing to an octagonal base adorned with intricate fretwork and tracery. The entire structure is graced by allegorical statues and figures of nobles and saints. The original sculptures have been taken to the safer climate of a museum, and were replaced with copies.

Photo by Ed Holden.
The central tower and archway are noticeably off-center. Legend has it that the architect, upon noticing this error, leapt to his death from the tower. However, this proves to be apocryphal given the long period of time during which the building was expanded. Nevertheless, it’s the quirk which gives the building much of its charm and energy.

The 1695 Bombardment of Brussels saw a vicious fire rip through the entire of the Hôtel de Ville, destroying the city’s records. The interior was entirely rebuilt, and, by 1712, two new wings were added to the rear of the structure. The building was substantially redecorated in 1868 with the addition of lavish tapestries and artwork. Since then, the Hôtel de Ville has remained relatively unchanged. Today, it’s a grand monument to the artistry and ingenuity of a remarkable people.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 27

Julian screamed. When he opened his eyes, he was blinded by the sharp sting of hot crimson. He put his hands to his face and shuddered as he wiped blood away.

Someone was gripping him by his shoulders. He blinked rapidly, but each flutter of his eyelids seemed to scrape against his eyes. Julian’s entire body shook in spasms. “Let go of me!” He shrieked.

“Julian, it is I, Robert.” The doctor whispered softly.

“What’s happened?” Julian wiped at his face again, his sweat and blood marrying in streaks across his cheek.

“There was a scuffle on the deck. I’m afraid you were caught up in it.” Robert responded in the same hushed tone. “You’re in your cabin now, and I’m tending to you.”

“My head.” Julian groaned, his voice shaking. “They’ve split my head.”

“No, no. It’s just a scrape. A scalp wound bleeds terribly, but it’s nothing serious. You’re perfectly fine.”

“How?” Julian shut his eyes and let Robert wipe his face with a damp cloth.

“We were watching the Guignol show.” Robert explained. “There was a bit of trouble. Just horseplay, and you were accidentally struck in the head.”

“I don’t remember that.” Julian trembled.

“I know you don’t.” Robert whispered. “But, it doesn’t matter. You’re safe now.”

Julian’s vision began to clear and he looked down to see blood spattered on his shirt and waistcoat. His coat had already been removed.

“We’ll need to get you into some fresh clothes.” Robert said.

“Robert,” Julian responded pleadingly, “please, please explain to me what has happened.”

“I have,” Robert smiled.

“No. No, you haven’t. You’re keeping something from me. I didn’t go on deck. I didn’t leave this cabin. I don’t remember the Guignol show. I don’t know how or why I’m bleeding. Please!”

“I found you on deck watching the puppets. You became upset and, unthinkingly, grabbed for the Guignol figure. When you did, the puppeteer jumped up and toppled the puppet theater. That’s how your head was struck.” Robert said simply. He did not mention that Punch and an angry Frenchman in the crowd had come to blows. He did not mention the fierce profanities that Punch had shouted. Nor did he mention the taunts and jeers of the group who had gathered to watch.

“That is not something that I would do.” Julian gently touched his aching head.

“No, I should think not.” Robert put his hand on Julian’s shoulder. “However, it’s not unusual for someone to react in strange ways when he’s just had upsetting news.” He couldn’t bring himself to tell Julian about Punch. He knew that Julian wasn’t yet ready.

“My father…” Julian sighed, tears welling in his already pink-rimmed, puffy eyes.

“Yes.” Robert nodded. “Arthur told me of the contents of the letter from the Duchess.”

“I can’t believe it.” Julian sobbed. “His throat was cut. Thieves jumped him—just as they did me in Covent Garden…” Julian choked. “But, Father was…” He coughed, gagging. “I wasn’t…”

“Julian, please,” Robert helped the shaken man lean back on the cushions of the narrow bed. “Don’t speak anymore. Not now.”

“Robert, do you ever get the sense that you’re speaking even when you aren’t?” Julian asked.

“I don’t understand.”

“When we speak, we think and the words issue forth from our mouths. Yes?” Julian said slowly.


“Sometimes, I think, and I feel as though words are coming forth, but I’m not saying them. Yet, the chatter keeps going. Always this humming in my head. Songs and poems, anger and words and thoughts that aren’t mine. Visions and memories that I can’t place. Things that I can’t see yet I know are there.” Julian winced. “’In Scarlet Town, where I was born, there was a fair maid dwellin’. Made many a youth cry well-a-day…her name...”

“Barbara Allen.” Robert finished the thought.

“You know, don’t you?” Julian asked. “Why won’t you tell me?”

Robert put his feet up on the bed and sat cross-legged in front of Julian. He took Julian’s hands in his.

“I promised someone that I wouldn’t have this conversation with you, but I…well, Julian, I can’t continue to keep it from you. I feel too much…”

“Who did you promise?” Julian asked.

“Punch.” Robert said.

“Punch?” Julian raised an eyebrow, the motion of which made his wound inflame and begin to seep blood again. “A puppet?”

“What you were telling me about the voices and thoughts that aren’t yours, Julian—they’re not yours. They’re someone else’s. They’re Punch’s. He lives within you. I don’t know how or why. I don’t really understand it myself, but I know that there are two distinct entities which share your body. One of you is a gentle, fragile soul, the other is…stronger. He’s…”

A convulsion rippled through Julian’s body as blood dripped down his face and into his eyes again.

“You mean to tell me that I’m possessed? By what? A demon? What?” Julian gripped Robert’s hands.

“No. It’s not that. That’s not possible.” Robert said quickly.

“What, then?” Julian became frantic.

Robert squeezed Julian’s hands in return. “I don’t know. We’ll figure it out—together. You’ve suffered a great loss today, and you’re coping with this journey…” Robert paused as he noticed Julian’s hands becoming stronger.

“Save your breath, Doctor.” Punch laughed as the blood from Julian’s wound dripped onto the bed. “Julian’s gone. And, you, Sir, broke your promise. Now, what do you think I should do about that?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-26, if so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Rediscover your Neighborhood

We travel the same streets day after day. Most of the time, we don’t pay much attention to these familiar surroundings. Maybe it’s time to become reacquainted with our neighborhoods. If you get a chance, and the weather is permitting, take a walk this evening.

Look around at the other houses on your block; admire the architecture around you, the gardens, the natural terrain. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll notice. Our natural inclination as humans is to always be looking for something better. But, sometimes, what we most desire is right in front of us—if only we’ll take the time to see it.

Object of the Day: “Hôtel de Ville” by Robert J. Inness

Some of you asked me about this painting after my article about “picture lights.” This large work depicts the Hôtel de Ville (or, in Dutch, “Staidhuis”) in Brussels, Belgium. Robert J. Inness is a contemporary painter, living in Dallas, known for his lush landscapes and cityscapes. I have collected four of his paintings, and have had the honor of meeting him.

Inness’ work is characterized by loose brushstrokes and a bold use of color. He is particularly adept at using dramatic skies as soaring backgrounds for the buildings and scenes that he paints. His ability to replicate the most minute architectural details by manipulating his brushstrokes is particularly remarkable. Throughout a lifetime of world traveling, Inness has had the chance to sketch and paint the most beautiful vistas on the earth. His eye translates these images into magnificently fluid scenes of palpable energy.

The Hôtel de Ville hangs in my living room, directly across from another of his works—a painting of the Esplanade at Versailles. They book-end the room with their lush colors and unexpected feeling of life.

The work of Robert J. Inness can be found in Dallas at the Forestwood Antique Mall in the booth operated by his wife, Yvette. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Recommended Reading: Victorian Painting by Lionel Lambourne

Queen Victoria by Franz X. Winterhalter
At 500 pages, this book may seem ponderous, however, when you open it, you find page-after-page of stunningly reproduced paintings. The author, Lionel Lambourne, has accurately and sensitively chronicled the different phases, styles and genres of Victorian painting and has painstakingly chosen the absolute best examples of the work of the greatest artists of the period.

Some of the categories covered in this stunning book are: "The Victorian Art Establishment," "The Fresco Revival," "The Panorama," "Childhood and Sentiment," "Fairy Painting," "Sporting and Animal Painting," "The Pre-Raphaelites," "The Frailer Sex and Fallen Woman," "Aesthetes and Symbolists," and "Impressionism in Britain."

I would recommend adding this book to your collection.  Turning the pages is almost as good as a tour of the world’s finest museums.

Home Security Tip of the Week: Window Alarms

If you’re in a position where you cannot install a security system, you may wonder how you can further protect your home. Perhaps you’re a renter, or maybe finances just don’t allow for the expense of a security system at the moment. One solution is battery-operated window alarms.

Using double-sided tape, these alarms are easy to install. Simply place the sensor on the molding and the main unit on the window frame so that they’re touching. The alarms emit a high-pitched squeal if the window is opened. The sound is enough to deter a would-be intruder and will certainly alert you to the fact that someone was trying to get in. These also work great on doors.

Though I have a security system with window sensors, I also keep these alarms on the windows as a secondary level of protection. I would recommend them. They’re inexpensive and offer peace of mind.

Humanitarian of the Week: Elizabeth Taylor

One of the remaining great ladies of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Elizabeth Taylor symbolizes the heights of talent and the tempestuous Hollywood lifestyle. Born in London in 1932, Elizabeth Taylor began acting at the age of nine and quickly became one of the most sought-after child actors of her day. Her fame continued into her teen years as she made a strong of successful films. With each production, her talent grew as she wished to show herself as a true talent and not just a great beauty. She starred in some of the most famous films ever made and performed well into 2007.

Her personal life has provided a great deal of material for the media—from her health troubles to her eight marriages (to seven different men). She is a lover of jewelry, of animals and of people. Her generosity is as legendary as her talent. So much so that she was named a Dame of the British Empire.

Strip away the glamour and the scandals; Elizabeth Taylor is, at her heart, a nurturer. She has donated her time and money to AIDS research since the early 1990’s. By 1999, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation had raised $50 million to assist in research. Dame Elizabeth has also contributed her efforts to other charities. She is a staunch supporter of Dogs Deserve Better—a charity devoted to removing dogs from dangerous and abusive situations and finding them good, loving homes. Similarly, she has contributed greatly to Project Angel Food—a service which provides meals to people with serious illnesses.

She has enriched out world with her talent, her incredible beauty and her giving spirit. For this reason, Dame Elizabeth Taylor is our “Humanitarian of the Week.”

Film of the Week: Raintree County, 1957

Taylor, Clift and Saint studying MGM footage: MGM
Nearly twenty years after David O. Selznick began shooting Gone with the Wind, MGM launched Raintree County. MGM promised that this epic Civil War drama—based on the novel of the same name by Ross Lockbridge, Jr.—was meant to surpass GWTW in spectacle and beauty. The cast was stellar. Elizabeth Taylor was to be paired, once again, with the enigmatic and handsome Montgomery Clift. Theirs was a magnificent team. The best of friends, they adored one another and worked perfectly together. Taylor, it was thought, could keep Monty’s drinking under control during the filming. Monty would keep Liz’s acting in check. Rising star Eva Marie Saint was cast as Monty’s hometown sweetheart. The glorious Agnes Moorehead (known to most of us as Endora) would play his mother. Rod Taylor, Walter Abel, Nigel Patrick, Tom Drake and Lee Marvin rounded out the cast.

MGM built lavish sets and planned detailed battle scenes meant to rival Gone with the Wind. The location shooting was planned to the last detail. Everything was in place. Production began…

And, then, one night, after leaving a little dinner party at Elizabeth Taylor’s house, Montgomery Clift crashed his car. His friend, Kevin McCarthy, was in the car ahead of Monty’s. He rushed to the wreckage, but couldn’t see Monty. McCarthy ran back to Taylor’s house, banging on the door. “Monty’s dead!” Taylor and others rushed to the scene. However, Montgomery Clift wasn’t dead. The impact forced his body under the dashboard. His head was swollen to the width of his shoulders. He was choking. Elizabeth Taylor forced her way through the rear windshield, cradling her dear friend in her lap as she removed two teeth that had been lodged in his throat.

While Montgomery Clift lived that night, part of him died. Production halted for months while he recovered. He returned to filming as a different man—the left side of his once-perfect face was paralyzed. His mind was muddied from pain and too much medication. Though at times, he appears gaunt and wooden, Clift still manages to give an outstanding performance in the film which is, otherwise, I hate to say it, rather uneven.

Clift, after the accident, his face paralyzed.
Taylor’s performance swells to sometimes unnatural crescendos. However, these moments of histrionics fit the increasing madness of her character. And, of course, she looks stunning. It’s not Taylor’s fault that the film falls flat at times. Nor is it Montgomery Clift’s—or anyone’s. It’s just a production that was chaotic from start to finish.

Strangely enough, the picture did well at the box office though everyone associated with it knew it wasn’t the best. Clift—in his own dark way—joked that people would go if only just to see if they could spot which scenes were filmed before and which were filmed after his accident.

So, why am I recommending the film? Frankly because it’s an important part of film history. It marks an important place in the lives of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. Also, despite being overwrought, it’s an interesting film to watch. The plot is a bit murky, but the picture is beautifully shot. Not only is it a recreation of the Civil War, it’s, more importantly, a time capsule of the film world of the late-1950’s. Also, it’s historically significant as the first use of 70 mm cameras. Raintree County was a turning point in the film industry and worth seeing—even if only once.

(Note: The film has not yet been released on a legitimate DVD by MGM)

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 26

As is its habit, time trod on—sometimes on soft tiptoes, sometimes tromping over brittle, weary souls. The Hyperion cut through waters both angry and relenting. The passage of nine days saw Julian and Robert grow hesitantly closer—the one man fearful of everything, the other, fearful of himself.

Robert was able to tell when Punch would be making an appearance, and he tried his best to ensure that his dealings were mostly with Julian. Lord Fallbridge rarely left his cabin, preferring to take his meals in the safety of the small room. Robert always joined him. Sometimes they would talk, sometimes they would sit in silence. Yet, they were together, and Julian was growing to depend on the doctor—always wondering if they’d met before, but never quite sure that they hadn’t.

Arthur had fallen into a pattern, showing up at exactly the same times each day. He would come to the cabin to fulfill his duties as valet, often smelling of gin, other times smelling of desiccated roses—always with his amber smile and an obsequious bow. Julian was strangely still and submissive around Arthur, prompting Robert to do most of the talking. Soon, Arthur’s contempt for the doctor grew palpable and Robert knew that, in time, the footman’s rage would boil over in a scalding froth which would burn all of them.

Unaccustomed to gentleness, Julian continued to be reserved with Dr. Halifax. He never requested the man’s presence, but always knew he could rely on it. He infrequently offered any information of his own. They did not speak of Barbara, they never talked of “The Elegant Ogress,” or Louisiana or anything related to the darkness which hung over them on threadbare twine which could snap at any moment. When they did speak, they conversed about art, about museums and music—the present and nothing more.

When the ocean reflected the blackness of night, Robert would retreat to his cabin, hoping that the following morning he would be greeted at the door by Julian and not Punch. Together, they did well, until the tenth day…

Robert knocked on the cabin door. There was no answer. He waited, and knocked again.

Finally, Arthur opened the door. His yellowed eyes were ringed in weary pink, the lids drooped lazily, yet his smile was golden and bright.

“His Lordship isn’t here, Sir.” Arthur beamed.

“Where is he?” Robert asked.

“Gone out for some sun, I ‘spect.” Arthur flashed his grin.

“You let him go on deck unattended?” Robert demanded.

“Who am I, Sir, to tell His Lordship what to do? If my master wishes to take some air, I can’t think of a reason why he shouldn’t.”

Robert bounded into the room and looked around. The bed was unmade and on the writing table, paper had been shredded—strewn about like jagged snowflakes.

“What’s that?” Robert asked, pointing to the desk.

“Dunno.” Arthur shrugged. “Only we had a letter from Her Grace which I had delivered to His Lordship. Picked it up when we docked, you know.”

“How exactly was the Duchess of Fallbridge able to get a letter to her son?”

“How should I know, Sir?” Arthur bared his teeth. “Only I picked it up when we docked. Who’s to say how our betters do things? Mine is only to do what I’m told.”

Robert shook his head and walked toward the cabin door. “Never! Never, let Lord Fallbridge leave this cabin without me again!”

“Begging your pardon, Sir, but I take my orders from His Lordship, and him only.” Arthur smiled.

“Tidy this room!” Robert spat as he headed out into the passage.

He found Julian on deck amidst a small crowd of people watching the French puppeteers perform a Guignol show.

Robert could deduce by the hoots and cheers coming from Julian’s mouth that Punch was present. He braced himself for the encounter.

“Mr. Punch,” Robert whispered into Julian’s ear.

“Oh, it’s the doctor.” Punch winked. “Come to watch my cousin, have you?”

“I’ve come to find you.” Robert answered.

“Well, here I am.” Punch laughed. “Look at ‘im. Got a hand up his back—the lucky devil!” Punch pointed Julian’s finger at the puppet. “Don’t have to think for himself, that one.” Punch hooted, “Bloody, lucky fool!”

The others in the crowd guffawed.

“Mr. Punch, wouldn’t you like to return to the cabin?”

“No, Doctor, I would not.” Punch frowned. “I want to talk with my cousin.”


“Julian got a letter today. Seems our father is dead. Killed in France by a thief. Cut his throat and took the jewels what he just bought from some bloke. I want to see what Guignol knows about it.”

Robert blanched and stood blankly for a moment.

“Sir Collin Molliner is dead?” Robert asked after a time.

“Looks like.” Punch answered angrily. “Whore of a sister has gone off to America, Father is dead, Julian’s mother is what she is. The man’s got nothin’ but me now, and I aim to take control of the situation, you see.”

“Mr. Punch, you are not the only person Lord Julian has. He has me.”

“Lot of good you are! Look at me—my head split open, right down the middle. Did you mend it? No!”

“Mr. Punch,” Robert whispered, “Your head may be split, but Julian’s isn’t. Right now, you inhabit his body. There’s nothing for me to fix.”

“Leave us alone, there’s a pet.” Punch hissed.

“I can’t do that.” Robert shook his head.

“You’re just as bad as she is.” Punch grumbled.


“That Nanny what smells like roses. Me mother!” Punch answered. “She was all palms and fingertips just now—grabbing and begging. ‘Come with me, Lord Julian.’ Sow’s just lucky I didn’t push her into the sea. Only I couldn’t with all these people starin’, starin’. But, she’ll get hers—right after I see my cousin.” Punch widened Julian’s eyes. “Which I aim to do presently.”

Punch propelled Julian’s body through the crowd and directly for the collapsible puppet stage. With one swift motion, Punch grabbed the Guignol puppet from the hand of the performer and held it aloft.

“Come with me, Cousin!” Punch screamed. “You’re gonna answer me some questions, and, then we’ll hack our way through the sugar cane together!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-25?  If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Celebrate Change

Soon, autumn will be upon us. For those of us in areas that have been blasted by relentless heat, this is a welcome change. However, it’s also a reminder of the passage of time. Children will go back to school; before we know it, the holidays will be upon us, and, soon, another year will pass. Some of us fear change. Many of us want to stay just as we are, but change can be a glorious thing.

With change comes growth. And, with growth, new opportunities present themselves. Learn to embrace change and the beauty of new beginnings. For every leave that falls, in time, a new one will bud in its place. Time has no end, and neither does possibility.

So, today, as you go about your business, look forward to what’s ahead of you. Whether it’s the sandwich you’re going to have for lunch or the fact that with each breath, you’re one step closer to realizing your dreams, you have much to celebrate. You are in control of your destiny, and you have the power to make your life truly beautiful.

Object of the Day: A Painting by W.A. Young

Autumn leaves glint amber and gold in the fading light of day, reflecting against the still waters of a stream. A woman in a silver robe—lined in brilliant crimson, and hemmed in ebony—raised a violin to her peach-hued cheek. She is about to play, to serenade nature. At her feet, a tangle of wild flowers breathe the last gasps of Spring. Her song signifies the changing of seasons and the passage of time. Her countenance shows her resolve that things are fleeting, and, yet, she celebrates the morphing of the world around her.

This painting by W.A. Young is at first, a bucolic genre painting. However, on closer inspection, it is a startling study of contrasts. The statuesque beauty of the woman is a counterpoint to the fading majesty of the napping trees. The stillness of the water juxtaposes the life in her limbs. It is a moment in time, captured for eternity.

Dating to the 1870’s, there’s some mystery as to who W.A. Young is. My research indicates that this is most likely the work of the English Artist/Historian, W.A. Young who famously worked in cataloging the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in the late Nineteenth Century. Influenced by the monumental works of the late Eighteenth Century, this painting is rendered with a heavy, deliberate hand and clearly shows influences of earlier great English painters. Regardless of the artist’s identity, this work is quick to tell us that time is fleeting.