Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Sparkle: Stuart Coronation Ring, 1660

Stuart Coronation Ring
1660 or earlier
Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels in
the Collection of Her Majesty, the Queen
This almost-violet Pigeon Blood Ruby Ring was given as a gift to King George IV (then, Prince of Wales) in 1807 from Cardinal York. The ring—engraved with a cross of St. George—most likely started as a large ruby bead which had been cut and polished to create a table suitable for engraving. Originally set in a plain gold band, this stone was assuredly used as the coronation ring for James I and James VII.

Records indicate that this ring may have also been the coronation ring of Charles II and may even have belonged to Charles I. While the piece is documented as belonging to the Stuart Dynasty, it was never kept in the Jewel House. The Sovereign’s coronation ring was considered his personal property and did not belong to the state. Therefore, accurate records are difficult to come by. However, we do know that the border of brilliant Old Mine Cut diamonds was added in 1780 and that the ring was substantially recreated in the 1800’s. William IV loaned this piece to be displayed to the public at Edinburgh Castle in 1830. The ring was returned to the Royal Collection in the Twentieth Century.

Toys of the Belle Époque: A Clockwork Pig, 1890

Clockwork Toy Pig and Rider, 1890
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Long before handheld digital devices, people still wanted their toys to be somewhat interactive. Our Victorian and Edwardian counterparts were very clever with clockwork—producing exceptional automata and animated items ranging from the most serious of time pieces to the most frivolous of toys. I think this clockwork pig falls closer to the category of the latter.

I like this pig. He looks like a happy pig despite the fact that he has a rider. This is just one example of the beautiful automata designed during the Nineteenth Century—particularly in Germany, France and England. Automata had a place in the home as toys, yes, but they also served as conversation pieces, curious and, even, decorative objects. Functional Victorian clockwork pieces are rare and difficult to come by. They can occasionally be found in pieces or in poor-working order.

This pig seems to have held up well. He and his friend now reside in The Victoria & Albert Museum. The geographical origins of this pig are somewhat sketchy. Curators at the V&A place it around 1890 and most likely originating in France or Germany. The pleased pig walks on his thin legs—wound by a key in his stomach. His rider can move his arms (one of them, missing a hand) back and forth. Items such as this were often imported to England and the United States during the Nineteenth Century. Because of their small size, they weren’t heavily taxed and could be purchased for a relatively low cost. Today, however, an item such as this is worth a small fortune.

This fascinating video shows other examples of antique automata which are truly extraordinary.  I’m particularly amazed by the figure which draws an actual picture on its own.  For all of our technology, perhaps we’ve lost some of our cleverness.

Masterpiece of the Week: “A Hawking Party Setting Out,” by Adriaen van de Velde, 1666

A Hawking Party Setting Out
Adriaen van de Velde, 1666
Acquired by King George IV
The Royal Collection
Adriaen van de Velde (1636-1672) was the son of the famed Dutch painter, William van de Velde, the elder. His brother, William, The Younger was a celebrated marine painter. Initially, William wished for Adriaen to join his brother in marine painting, however, Adriaen preferred painting animals and landscapes. He was sent to study with Jan Wynants where he quickly became a master painter. Known for his fine paintings of animals, van de Velde also had a great talent for introducing human figures into his epic landscapes. These figures served to provide a counterpoint to nature—in essence making the human’s appear ridiculous in their frivolity when compared to the grandeur of the world around them.

His painting, A Hawking Party Setting Out, painted in 1666, shows this juxtaposition. The hunting party in their finery looks a bit clownish next to the majestic scenery. In true Dutch tradition, the scene is rendered in jewel-like colors and brushstrokes of brilliant clarity. King George IV was an admirer of Dutch painting and acquired this piece while still the Prince of Wales. Today, it can be seen at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace as part of the Royal Collection.

At the Music Hall: “Little Yellow Bird” by Clarence Wainwright Murphy, 1903

Yellow Warbler
© Joseph Crisalli

The snow was very plentiful
And crumbs were very few
When a weather-beaten sparrow to a mansion window flew
Her eye fell on a golden cage
A sweet love song she heard
Sung by a pet canary there
A handsome yellow bird
He said to her, “Miss Sparrow, I’ve been struck by cupid’s arrow.
Will you share my cage with me?”
She looked up at his castle
With its ribbon and its tassel
And in plaintiff tones said she:
“Goodbye, little yellow bird,
I’d rather brave the cold
On a leafless tree,
Than a prisoner be,
In a cage of gold.”

British composer Clarence Wainwright Murphy, an extremely prolific creator of theatrical and music hall songs, teamed with lyricist W. Hargreave in 1903 to write Little Yellow Bird (also known as Goodbye, Little Yellow Bird). The song is a sentimental tale of the decision to choose freedom over love and a commentary on the classes.

Angela Lansbury as Sybil Vane in
The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1945
Turner Home Entertainment
The lyrics describe a scene of a poor sparrow who is tortured by the elements, but would prefer to shiver than to be trapped in an opulent cage. Little Yellow Bird was immensely popular in the music halls of England. It’s popularity led to its use in the 1938 film, Alf’s Button, and later in the stunning 1945 version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. In the latter, a young Angela Lansbury sings Little Yellow Bird as sweet music gall girl Sybil Vane. This is Dorian’s first encounter with the girl and he quickly falls in love with her. Had Sybil taken the advice of the sparrow in her song and stayed out of that gilded cage, she might not have met the end that she did. Enjoy this clip from The Picture of Dorian Gray. Pardon the captioning. I couldn’t find a clip without it.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 72

Adrienne smiled sweetly at Edward Cage. “Mr. Cage, what a nice surprise. We did not know you were home.”

“Of course, I’m home, Mrs. Halifax. Where else would I be? If I’d gone to the museé, don’t you think I’d have taken your husband with me?” Edward Cage answered stiffly.

“I’m sure you would have.” Adrienne forced herself to smile.

“What are the two of you doing in my hallway?” Edward continued. “I don’t recall inviting you.”

“We had news of your blessed event,” Cecil answered quickly. “Adrienne and I thought we’d bring a small gift to welcome your new son to the world.”

“Who’s telling tales about my family?” Edward Cage narrowed his eyes.

“No one, Mr. Cage,” Adrienne replied. “We overheard young Rowan Rittenhouse telling his mother that he and Ulrika had visited the child. We were overjoyed at the news.”

“I see.” Mr. Cage nodded. “So, you just had to come see for yourself.”

“To give you our sincere congratulations.” Adrienne nodded.

“And to ‘take action.’” Mr. Cage hissed. “Isn’t that what you were saying when I came in? What sort of action do you need to take?”

“Ah, that.” Adrienne nodded. “Perhaps you’ve heard that my husband’s brother has taken ill? He’s recuperating at the Rittenhouses’ because Dr. DeCuir felt it unwise to move him. I was simply expressing my concern to Cecil that we should take action soon to bring him back to our house. We don’t want to continue to impose on Mrs. Rittenhouse. With all of her other responsibilities, we could hardly put upon her to have a sick man in her home.” Adrienne lied coolly.

“I heard about your brother.” Edward said to Cecil. “Met him, too. The other day with his companion. That’s an odd fellow, isn’t it?”

“Lord Fallbridge is a bit eccentric, but he’s extremely kind and charming.” Cecil smiled politely.

“I found him to be a bit wild.” Edward snapped. “But, it isn’t any of my affair. I know when to keep to my own business and stay out of things which don’t concern me. I could tell that your brother was ill, but I didn’t meddle or stick my nose where it doesn’t belong. I think that’s something that all of us should remember to do.”

“You’re so right,” Adrienne nodded.

“So, you’ll understand when I ask you to leave my home? Cecil, you should know better than to come over here uninvited. I’ll overlook it this time, but don’t let it happen again.” Mr. Cage grinned.

“Yes,” Cecil nodded.

“We’re sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Cage. We’ll be happy to leave as soon as we’ve seen your new baby.” Adrienne said quickly.

“Adrienne…” Cecil began.

“Well, then, you’re not hearing me, Madame.” Edward frowned. “I can’t imagine that you’ve not seen a baby before. Coming from where you do, I suspect you’ve seen a good many things.”

Adrienne blushed and looked away.

“Edward, that’s uncalled for.” Cecil said forcefully.

“What are you going to do?” Edward snapped. “Challenge me to a duel?” He laughed. “Now, I’ll thank you to take your whore and get out of my house.”

Adrienne shook with rage. “Mr. Cage, you are not polite.”

“And, you’re unclean.” Edward spat. “I won’t have you coming near that pure soul upstairs. I aim to keep him innocent. I don’t mind if one of my employees wants to marry a whore, but it’s another thing to let one touch my child.”

“Your child?” Adrienne shouted. “Yours? Is it Cage blood that runs through his veins?”

“Who else’s?” Edward growled.

“We all know that that child is not yours and your wife’s.” Adrienne snapped.

“Adrienne, please.” Cecil took his wife by the arm. “Let’s leave.”

“No.” Edward Cage bellowed. “Your missus and I need to have a little chat.”

At that very moment, Mr. Punch was sitting cross-legged on the bed next to Robert. Punch puffed out his cheeks—more precisely, he puffed out Julian’s cheeks—and hummed wildly.

“Here!” Punch whooped. “Listen, I’m making noise with me head!”

Robert laughed. “That you are.”

Punch blew air through Julian’s lips and listened to the wet, flapping noise. He giggled. “Sounds funny, don’t it?”

Robert looked lovingly at Mr. Punch. “Yes.”

Punch leaned against the wall and sighed. “So, are you well yet?”

“Not quite yet, Punch.” Robert coughed.

“Soon?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Soon.” Robert nodded.

“Say, you’re gonna have to help me, you are. This ball we’re gonna have to go to—it’s fancy dress, yes? What do folk wear?”

“Some sort of costume that’s unusual. You can be anything at a masquerade.” Robert answered.

“Can I be me-self? I’m already more than one thing. No sense adding to it.”

“That’s an excellent idea.” Robert smiled.

“Didn’t have no idea.” Mr. Punch shrugged. “What’d I say?”

“I was just thinking that perhaps you should dress as Mr. Punch.” Robert grinned.

“Already dressed as Mr. Punch.” Punch squinted.

“No, you’re Mr. Punch dressed as Lord Fallbridge. Every day is a masquerade for you. So, why not make the fancy dress ball an occasion to dress as yourself?”

“You mean like me puppet-self?” Punch grinned. “Like with me pointed hat and red suit?”

“Yes.” Robert winked.

“Coo.” Punch replied thoughtfully. “Only how would it look with Julian’s smooth face and little nose?”

“You could wear a visor—a mask. I’m sure Cecil could make one for you.” Robert answered.

“You mean with me right chin and nose and such?” Mr. Punch wondered. “Huh.” He grunted. “Only I kinda prefer Julian’s people-face to me own.”

Robert chuckled. He, too, preferred Julian’s face to that of Mr. Punch’s. But, he dared not say so. “It would only be for one night.”

“Might be nice to look like me-self for a change.” Mr. Punch nodded. “Could be fun, it could.” He squinted again. “Here, if I’m me-self, what’ll you be?”

“The doctor, of course.” Robert smiled.

“You mean the doctor what tends to Judy? The puppet doctor from the pantomime?”


“Well!” Mr. Punch whooped. “Didn’t think I’d like the idea, but now I’m startin’ to think it’ll be a lark!”

Robert coughed violently.

“Listen, Chum. We’d better calm ourselves down. Don’t need you getting’ worse again.”

“I’ll be fine.” Robert nodded, clearing his throat.

“That’s what you said right before you spit up blood and fell to the floor. You ain’t the most precise when it comes to sayin’ what’s fine and what ain’t.” Mr. Punch grumbled.

Robert sighed. “You have a point.”

“Course I do!” Mr. Punch leapt off the bed. “Close in here, it is. All dark and stuffy.” He walked over to the windows and opened the drapes. “Still, I ‘spose we oughtn’t open the winda and let the cold get at ya. Can let the light in though. That’ll help a tad.”

Mr. Punch gazed out the window. “Coo, look at all that land. Reminds me a bit of Fallbridge Hall. You know, me master would take me out with him when he were a boy. We’d go to a stone castle near the brook, we would. Julian called it ‘a folly.’ Don’t know what that means. But, we’d play there. And sing. That was when I was a puppet—full on. I was also in Julian, then, too, but I had me other…”

“What is it, Punch?” Robert asked.

Punch tapped on the window with Julian’s finger.


Julian’s face blanched as Mr. Punch stammered and spit.

“Mr. Punch?” Robert tried to get out of the bed.

Punch began pounding the window with Julian’s fist.

“Don’t do that.” Robert said, pulling himself out of the bed. “Please.”

Mr. Punch banged harder on the glass. “Here!” He howled. Julian’s whole body shook. “No!”

With one sharp blow, Punch broke one of the panes of glass and withdrew Julian’s bloodied hand which dripped on the carpets. His body rocked with fury.

“God,” Robert said as he stumbled to find something to wrap around Julian’s hand.

Punch continued to howl, still staring out the window.

“What’s gotten into you?” Robert asked as he wrapped a flannel around Julian’s hand. “What is it, Mr. Punch?”

“Look…” Punch stammered.

Robert looked out the window. There, in the distance was a man and a woman, leaning against a huge oak tree—kissing. Robert immediately recognized the woman as Barbara. He couldn’t believe his eyes as he identified the man.

“Arthur!” Punch cried. “It’s Arthur!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-71? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, October 18, for Chapter 73 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Check Your Smoke Alarms

As we approach a new season, it’s always a good idea to make sure that your property, home and family are protected.  Make checking the batteries in your smoke detectors a regular part of your seasonal home maintenance.  Very often, your smoke alarms will emit an obnoxious high-pitched squeal to let you know that it’s time to change the battery.  However, we can’t always count on this.  Maintaining a beautiful home means making sure your house, its contents and occupants are protected.  During the course of your Saturday, spend a few minutes today to make sure that your smoke alarms have fresh batteries. 

Object of the Day: An Antique Dutch Landscape

Dutch painters have always had a remarkable ability to produce very organic scenes which dance with gem-like colors. Many Dutch artists rendered light and shadow with a masterful hand. This early Nineteenth Century Dutch landscape painting is further evidence of that.

While this painting’s signature is illegible, we can tell that it is Dutch in origin by the pattern of the craquelure and the color of the canvas on the reverse. The patina of the stretcher boards and unpainted areas of canvas match with again patterns of Dutch paintings as they’ve taken on the rich copper color associated with similar works of the same age from The Netherlands.

The scene is a typically Dutch pastoral composition of a stream and mill. Fanciful mountains rise against an aquamarine sky which has been made all the more vivid by the presence of autumnal trees—their leaves bright red and orange in contrast to the coolness of the horizon and the shimmering water.

The colors of this painting are astoundingly vivid given its age. Composed of tiny, precise brushstrokes, the artist displays a remarkable control and knowledge of his or her medium. Paintings such as this were designed to soothe the viewer by capturing fleeting natural moments which could be appreciated forever.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Fun: An Interview with Mr. Punch and His Friends

If you’ve ever wondered what Mr. Punch might sound like without his “stage voice” (produced by means of a device called a “swazzle”), here’s your chance to find out.  In this mock interview, Mr. Punch, Judy (who prefers not to be called Mrs. Punch, thank you) and their “co-workers” are interviewed in what is purported to be an ongoing series.  This is wonderfully odd, and while the audio is not the best quality, it’s quite interesting.  

Antique Image of the Day: A Small Chapel in Tintern Abbey, Roger Fenton, 1854

A Small Chapel in Tintern Abbey, 1854
Roger Fenton
The Royal Collection

This photo by Roger Fenton(1819-1869) was taken at the ruins of Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire, South Wales in 1854.  The image was acquired by Prince Albert after it was exhibited at the Photographic Society.  Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were loyal patrons of the art of photography and, during their marriage, amassed an impressive collection of images.  Prince Albert was especially fond of Fenton’s work and the painterly way he approached his compositions.  Fenton’s flare for dramatic staging can be seen in this image which is at once both bucolic and slightly startling.  The juxtaposition of the young woman and her decaying surroundings makes an interesting statement.  Prince Albert was known to commission Roger Fenton for special photographs which still remain in the Royal Collection.  Victoria continued collecting after her husband’s death.  By the time of her passing, she had collecting over 20,000 original photographs. 

Mr. Punch in the Arts: An Early Nineteenth-Century Wooden Head

Wooden Head of Mr. Punch
Victoria & Albert Museum
History of Puppetry in Britain
In Punch’s Cousin, we saw how thrilled our Mr. Punch was when Cecil carved a new head to replace his damaged one. When I found this image from the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, I was reminded of that scene.

Of course, we know that Mr. Punch has been entertaining people in his various forms for centuries. Since his arrival in England, his appearance has remained fairly consistent despite minor nuances between puppets. This wooden head, long detached from its cloth body, shows us an early Nineteenth-Century incarnation of our beloved Mr. Punch. With his hooked nose and chin, he looks very much like his many puppet brothers. The head was created for the Codman Family who were Punch & Judy Men for four generations. A cherished family heirloom, the head was presented to another great Punch Professor—Percy Press I—in 1946 as a gift from Richard Codman, Senior. With his bright eyes and knowing smile, this gleeful figure represents a proud puppet ancestry and serves as a model for his descendants.

Pets of the Belle Époque: Her Majesty’s Yacht and its Occupants

The Royal Collection
HMY Victoria and Albert II served as the official yacht of the Sovereign from 1855 until 1904. The vessel was used exclusively by the Royal Family and was operated and maintained by The Royal Navy. Queen Victoria and her family very much enjoyed having pets around as did King Edward VII. Here, we see evidence that the Royal pets didn’t stay at home when their masters went yachting.

In the first image, a crewmember who has been identified as a Lieutenant Watson patiently allows a Persian cat to perch atop his head. Someone on the right is pointing to the spectacle with much amusement. The image is listed as being taken in 1905, probably by Princess Victoria of Wales. I think the date is approximate. If the photo was, in fact, taken on HMY Victoria and Albert II, the date would have to have been prior to 1904.

The Royal Collection
Similarly, in this next photo, we see the same cat about to have a bit of a tussle with a scrappy terrier known as Mac. We can only hope that any quarrels these two might have had were resolved so that they could be good shipmates.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 71

Just how is goin’ to some fool party gonna help us with what we need to do?” Mr. Punch frowned. “’Sides, ain’t like it’s tomorrow. Not even Christmas yet for a week. Don’t fancy numbers, I don’t, but I can tell ya that the changin’ of the year happens well after Christmas. Are you sayin,’ we’re gonna stay here all that long?”

“I am.” Robert coughed. “It’s not as if we can simply depart for England whenever we wish. We wouldn’t be able to sail for the continent for at least a fortnight anyway.”

“Don’t need to go to some ball!” Punch grumbled. “Got Barbara right here in this house. I say we snatch her up, make her tell us where the diamond is, hit her with a stick, put her in a sack and drag her hulk onto a ship. See, that solves the problem, right there.”

“Does it?” Robert smiled.

“Sorta.” Mr. Punch grunted.

“How do you think Iolanthe Evageline will react when we put Barbara in a sack and take her to England? Have you forgotten that the ‘ogress’ fairly well owns Lady Barbara? We’ve seen that Miss Evangeline doesn’t care to have her possessions taken from her. We know what she tried to do to poor Naasir. She has at her disposal an army of people.”

“As the legend goes, so it is.” Naasir whispered.

“Oh,” Punch sighed. “There he goes again ‘bout the legend.”

“It’s true, Mr. Punch,” Naasir said politely.

Punch walked over the mantelpiece and leaned on it, putting Julian’s head in his hands. He began to mutter to himself as he often did. “Don’t know what’s goin’ on, I don’t. Chum wants to go to some ball. Gotta get all dressed in some bleedin’ uncomfortable thing what’s gonna pinch me neck. Got the girl right here, we do. Hit her with a stick. That’s the way to do it. Gotta stick somewhere I do. Easy to do. But, no, we gotta wait cuz we don’t want to make the ogress thing angry, we don’t. The other one’s talkin’ ‘bout stories what don’t make no sense. Oughta just hit her with a stick, bring her back to England.”

Robert sighed roughly and gestured to Naasir. “I think we’ve upset him.”

Naasir widened his eyes and looked helpless.

“Would you bring him back over here?” Robert smiled.

Naasir nodded.

“Mr. Punch, Sir?” Naasir whispered. “Dr. Halifax wants you to come to him.”

Mr. Punch grumbled, but did as requested. He flopped onto the bed next to Robert.

“Sometimes, me Chum, you’re not any fun at all. Listen, we could be doin’ all sorts o’ things. I got legs, see. Not puppet legs neither, but man legs what can do things. When you get better, you and I can live at me master’s big house in Belgravia, we could. We could walk ‘round Covent Garden and eat sweeties and see me kin what still work in the tent. Oh, and we could sing—loud like, mind. It’d be a lark! Why make ourselves wait? I got me master in here and all. He’ll come, too. All three of us could be nice and content-like.”

Robert tilted his head to one side and thought about what Punch had said. He hadn’t really considered going forward as “three of us.” He’d rather counted on just having Julian at his side. The idea of Mr. Punch also being a part of it was appealing in its way, but also more complicated than Robert had imagined. Interesting, but complicated.

Robert smiled. “Dear Punch, you know that I want to go back to London as much as you do. I’ve enjoyed being near Cecil and Adrienne, but our home is elsewhere. And, I would like very much to have that life in Belgrave Square. I’d like to see Julian return to his trade and regain the success and reputation that are so rightfully his. I want a peaceful life.”

“The three of us?” Mr. Punch asked softly.

“Inasmuch as you and Julian are individuals, yes, the three of us.” Robert nodded. “However, we won’t have the peaceful life you speak of if Iolanthe Evangeline remains a threat. Consider your plan. If we just take Barbara back to Her Grace, the ‘ogress’ will become enraged. She’ll set her henchmen on Cecil and Adrienne. She’ll stop at nothing to exact her revenge. We can’t let that happen. We can’t, in good conscience, leave for England knowing that we’ve left our family in peril.”

Julian’s eyes became moist as Mr. Punch choked back a sob. “And the little man, Fuller.”

“Correct.” Robert nodded.

“So, how’s goin’ to a ball gonna protect ‘em?”

“It’s my understanding that the elite of New Orleans will all be in attendance—as they always are—at Edward Cage’s ball. With the Rittenhouses, The Cages, The Fontanals, and all of the other wealthy, powerful people of New Orleans and its surrounding towns in one place, you can be sure that Iolanthe Evangeline will be present. It’s a masque, you know. Everyone will be in fancy dress. I’m certain she will slip in to make conquests and further line her pockets. That will be our opportunity to confront her publicly and bring her to some sort of justice in a situation where we will be protected. With Iolanthe out of the way, her influence on Barbara may fade and we can bring her back to England willingly—possibly with the Molliner Blue.”

“Without havin’ to hit her with a stick?”

“Precisely.” Robert coughed.

“Here, what ‘bout her baby what she sold?” Mr. Punch asked.

“That, dear Punch, I cannot answer.” Robert sighed.

Meanwhile, Adrienne climbed the wide stone steps to the grand front door of the Cage’s mansion. Cecil followed closely behind her.

“Darling,” Cecil whispered. “Are you quite sure you want to do this?”

“Quite.” Adrienne grinned. She caressed the small package she held in her hands. “Quite.” She repeated. She knocked on the thick door.

“We can turn back.” Cecil whispered quickly.

A liveried man with intelligent eyes opened the door.

“We’ve come to visit with Mrs. Cage.” Adrienne said. “We’ve brought a gift for the new baby.”

The man looked nervous.

“Will you announce us?” Adrienne said as she swept into the foyer. Cecil smiled anxiously and followed his wife.

“Please, wait here.” The man said formally in a voice that clearly was not his usual way of speaking, but rather one that had been trained into him.

“Of course.” Adrienne said, taking a seat on a silk-covered chair beneath the winding staircase.

Cecil shifted his weight uncomfortably while they waited.

Corliss Cage timidly emerged from an archway at the rear of the hall. She looked frail and each step she took seemed to cause her great pain.

“Mr. and Mrs. Halifax,” She said in a voice so faint, they could barely hear her. “How kind of you to come.”

“Mrs. Cage,” Adrienne began. “Carling Rittenhouse told us of your joyous news. We were so pleased. And, what a surprise; we had no idea you were expecting a blessed event.”

Corliss stiffened, her hands shook. “We did not make the news widely known.”

“A fine baby boy,” Adrienne smiled. “So, I’m told.”

“Yes.” Corliss nodded. “We thought that young Orman should have a brother. He’s too much with his cousin, Edolie, you know. We thought that having a male companion would be good for him.”

“How fortunate that you were blessed with a son, then.” Adrienne said gently.

“Yes.” Corliss whispered. “Edward is quite beside himself with happiness.”

“We’ve brought a small token to mark the arrival of your son.” Adrienne smiled, handing the package to Corliss. “It’s a silver cup. We could have it engraved for you if you like. We didn’t, however, know the child’s full name.”

“Holt.” Mrs. Cage said weakly. “Edward has called him Holt. Holt Barden Cage.”

“A fine name. Tell me, does he favor you or Mr. Cage?” Cecil asked.

“Pardon?” Corliss shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s too soon to say. He looks like himself. His eyes…such bright eyes.”

“May we see him?” Adrienne asked.

“Now?” Mrs. Cage looked startled.

“If it’s convenient.” Cecil answered quickly.

“He’s…sleeping.” Corliss said.

“We won’t disturb him.” Adrienne said. “They’re so darling when they’re asleep, aren’t they?”

“Orman wasn’t.” Corliss frowned. “He was fitful even when in slumber. This one seems calm enough.”

An awkward silence filled the hall.

“I do love babies.” Adrienne said, finally. “Their smell, their sweet softness.”

“Yes, what a delight.” Mrs. Cage responded flatly.

“Do you think we could see him?” Adrienne asked again. “We’ll be very quiet. Believe me, I know how to not wake a baby.”

Mrs. Cage looked blankly at the wall between Cecil and Adrienne. She paused there for several seconds before vacantly answering, “I don’t see any harm in it.”

Another awkward pause crept up on them.

“Shall we, then?” Cecil said.

“Allow me a moment to check on it…him, first.” Corliss whispered.

“We shall wait here.” Cecil nodded.

Corliss tentatively made her way up the steep spiral of the grand staircase, clutching the banister as she went.

Adrienne sighed once the woman was out of sight.

“My dear,” Cecil said softly to his wife. “We don’t have to do this.”

“You would leave a child with that woman?” Adrienne asked innocently. “You saw her. She’s drained of all life.”

“There are other ways.” Cecil said.

“We don’t have time for other ways.” Adrienne argued gently. “Darling, we have to take action.”

“For what, exactly?” A man’s voice boomed from the front door as Edward Cage swaggered into the house. “For what do you need to take action, my pretty, little French woman?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-70? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Baby Your Feet

Our feet take a fair amount of abuse every day. Yet, they’re the part of the body we often take most for granted. Imagine, if you will, the daily life of our feet. They carry us around, hold up our weight, get forced into uncomfortable casing and invariably get knocked about. As someone who has experienced a good amount of foot-related discomfort, I can honestly say that taking care of our feet is an integral part of living well.

Today, take some time for your feet. Give them a nice massage or a warm soak. Rub some moisturizer into them. Give them a break. They’ll thank you by continuing to perform at their best.

Object of the Day: An Unusual Aesthetic Movement Footstool

When we think of the Nineteenth Century European Aesthetic Movement, we tend to envision ebonized furniture with gilt details and chinoiserie overtones. We also are immediately put in mind of ornamentation derived from natural phenomenon such as peacock feathers and ferns. However, not all Aesthetic Movement furnishings were ebonized. Many later Aesthetic Movement pieces were stained maple—still decorated with naturally-inspired designs, but, in large part carved as opposed to painted.

Such is the case of this walnut footstool. With its highly stylized curving lines, this piece of furniture is reminiscent of Rococo Revival ideals of organic shape, and hints at the influence of Eastlake style in its coloring. However, the carved ornamentation of abstract foliage and central ovoid medallions which remind us of peacock feathers, firmly place this piece in the late English Aesthetic movement.

The red damask upholstery is a Twentieth Century addition. The stool is still padded with horsehair and the original upholstery of claret-covered mohair (in rather shabby condition) remains beneath the new covering. As is the case with most Aesthetic Movement furnishings, this piece blends stylistically with furniture from almost any era. Since coming to this house in 2001, this footstool has been the companion of a Rococo chair, a Louis XVI Slipper Chair, and a contemporary club chair without any problems fitting in. Today, it is tucked under my desk, providing much relief to an author with bad feet. Attractive and proud, it’s still content to serve its original purpose.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mastery of Design: Queen Victoria’s Diamonds, 1858

The Coronation Necklace and Earrings
R. S. Garrard & Co., 1858
Commissioned by Queen Victoria
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria believed that a monarch should always look the part. Jewelry, she thought (quite correctly) when worn properly was one of the best ways to convey the sense of dignity, grandeur and nobility required of a ruler. The best stone for this was the diamond. Queen Victoria loved diamonds—she enjoyed wearing them. For the Queen, like many of us, diamonds put one in mind of tasteful magnificence. Given Queen Victoria’s diminutive size—she was not even five feet tall—she was quite sensitive about the scale of her jewelry. She desired large stones, but in settings that were appropriate for her stature. Many of the pieces of jewelry that she inherited were remade so that the scale would suit her small frame. Her beloved Prince Albert supervised all of the alterations personally.

By 1853, all of her most exquisite diamond pieces had been remade by Garrards, The Royal Jewelers at the time. In 1856, she was painted by Franz Winterhalter wearing an exceptional suite of diamonds—her favorite. However, in 1857, some minor unpleasantness with the King of Hanover (he felt that the jewels that had belonged to Queen Charlotte should have been rightfully his and not Victoria’s) caused Queen Victoria to have to give up the majority of her diamonds. Not to fear, however. When you’re the Queen, there are always more diamonds to be had. By 1858, Queen Charlotte’s necklace and earrings had been recreated using stones cleverly culled from a variety of sources. Winterhalter painted Victoria again, in 1959, this time wearing her new diamonds.

Winterhalter's 1859 Portrait
British National Portrait Gallery
This necklace is just too magnificent. The earrings aren’t bad either. I’ll just let them speak for themselves. Victoria loved them so dearly, they were the only diamonds she allowed herself to wear during her extended period of mourning. They reminded her of Prince Albert. Of particular note, these diamonds are now known as “Coronation Necklace.” While Victoria didn’t wear them at her coronation, they have been worn at the 1902, 1911, 1937 and 1953 coronations.

Gem of the Week: The Topaz

Blue Topaz and Sapphire Brooch
Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry
A silicate mineral of aluminum and fluorine, the topaz has long been prized as a gemstone. Naturally, a pure topaz is colorless, however, the presence of other minerals and forces can create a variety of colors: yellow, gray, red, violet, pink, blue, green, brown, orange and amber. Naturally-occurring blue and pink topaz is extremely rare. Often, these days, gray or pale yellow stones are irradiated to create a deeper blue or pink color. If you’re buying a piece of jewelry that features blue or pink topaz, make sure to ask if the stones have been color-treated.

A relatively new phenomenon, mystic topaz, gives off an attractive iridescent rainbow effect as it catches the light. This, however, is not naturally-occurring and is the result of a colorless topaz that has been coated with a special material.

Early Victorian Pink Topaz and Green Garnet (Tsavorite) Pin
Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry
In ancient times, any yellow stone was called a topaz. As the ability to differentiate between specific gems became more scientific, the silicate stone we now know as topaz earned sole use of the name. There hasn’t been a period of time when the topaz wasn’t a popular gem stone. In its many hues, the topaz offers a brilliant refractive quality and a lot of elegance.

Song of the Week: “Aquarium” from Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals”

Saint-Saens, 1903
San Francisco Symphony
 Composer Camille Saint-Saëns, while vacationing in Austria in 1886, wrote a suite of fourteen movements which he entitled The Carnival of the Animals. The cheerful suite, based on fanciful interpretations of the characteristics of different animals was originally written to be performed by a chamber group including a glass harmonica. However, today, it is most often performed by a full orchestra. Saint-Saëns feared that this suite was too frivolous and that it would ruin his reputation as a serious composer. Given that, he supressed public performances of the movements and only allowed his close friends to hear it performed. However, he left instructions that the suite could be performed after his death.

It’s very fortunate that he did. This is a delightful suite of music. The movements are: The Introduction and Royal March of the Lion, Hens and Roosters, Wild Asses, Tortoises, the Elephant, Kangaroos, Aquarium, Characters with Long Ears, The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods, The Aviary, The Pianists, Fossils, The Swan and Finale.

Of all of these, my favorite is “Aquarium.” This haunting piece composed for glass harmonica, strings, two pianos and flute, is perhaps the most musically deep of all of the movements. This peaceful, yet mysterious movement has found its way into many films and television programs. It figures prominently into The Simpsons, oddly enough, as a theme for Marge as she recalls her childhood at “Barnacle Bay.”

Here’s a clip of a very nicely performed rendition, set to an odd, but soothing picture of what appears to be a wizard underwater. Nonetheless, enjoy…

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Arnolfini Bertie

“Now, I guess you’ll say I symbolize something.”
Image: The Arnolfini Portrait, Jan Van Eyck, 1434 The National Gallery, London.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 70

Robert awoke and slowly opened his eyes. For a moment, the room was unfamiliar to him and he felt a sense of dread wash over his fatigued body. He shut his eyes again and thought. “Where I am?” Opening his eyes again he took in his surroundings. The room was papered in a pattern of red flowers on a taupe background, heavy walnut moldings surrounded the doors and windows. A fire was dying in the shockingly white marble hearth. Red flowers—red, the color of the earth on that hill. Robert slowly began to remember where he was and how he’d gotten there.

“Julian must experience this every time he awakens from Mr. Punch.” Robert thought to himself. “What a terrible feeling it must be.”

Robert breathed in, as deeply as he could without coughing. He was able to take in more air than he had the previous day, but he could still feel the fluid in his chest. He shivered slightly and attempted to pull the blankets further to his chin. He found, however, that there was resistance as if they were weighted down.

He sat up slightly and squinted into the dim light which crept in through the narrow openings in the thick, velvet curtains which shut the daylight from the room. At the foot of his bed, he saw Julian—or was it Mr. Punch—curled up in a ball near his feet. Robert smiled. “It’s Punch.” He gazed at the sleeping figure, knees pulled up to his chest, looking for all the world like a loyal dog slumbering obediently at the feet of his master.

“Punch,” Robert whispered.

“Sleepin’” Mr. Punch mumbled.

Robert laughed before coughing a little. “Dear Punch, it’s morning.”

“Here,” Punch yawned, scrunching up Julian’s face. He sat up and grinned. “You don’t look so sickly today.”

“I think I’m feeling a little better.” Robert nodded.

“Ya think?” Mr. Punch grunted. “Either you’re feelin’ better or ya ain’t. Doesn’t do no good thinkin’ ‘bout it.”

“I’m feeling a little better, then. I know it.” Robert smiled. “In fact, I’m a trifle hungry.”

“Coo!” Mr. Punch whooped. “Naasir brought some vittles.” Mr. Punch leapt from the bed and hurried over to the tray Naasir had left the previous evening. “Only they’re cold, I’d ‘spose. Betcha’d be wantin’ fresh.”

“Probably.” Robert smiled.

“Broth it was,” Mr. Punch muttered. “Now, it rubbish. Say, I’m hungry me-self.”

The door to the room rattled. And, then, someone knocked softly.

“Lord Fallbridge?” Naasir whispered through the door.

“Come in,” Mr. Punch smiled, glad to hear the man’s voice.

“It’s locked, Sir.” Naasir said.

“Right.” Mr. Punch grunted. He looked at Robert. “Had a visitor, we did. That barmy girl what’s got the red hair and frightening eyes. Got a neck like a bloke, that one. Wide shoulders, too. Don’t like her. Locked her out so she wouldn’t come and pester us no more.”

“I think we can let Naasir in.” Robert smiled.

“That we can.” Punch said, hurrying to the door and unlatching it.

“I’ve brought some breakfast for you, Sir.” Naasir grinned despite his tired voice. “Some fine boiled eggs and streaky bacon for you, Mr. Punch and some good hot mutton broth for the doctor.”

“Fine!” Punch licked his lips.

“How are you feeling today, Dr. Halifax?”

“A mite stronger, Naasir.” Robert answered.

“I’m glad to hear that.” Naasir nodded.

Mr. Punch hungrily grabbed a fistful of bacon from the tray and greedily shoved it in his mouth. With his mouth still full he commented. “What’dya think, chum, maybe in a day or two, we can get outta this place and go back to Adrienne and Cecil’s what’s got the baby and all them lovely heads?”

“Let’s hope so.” Robert nodded as Naasir helped him sit up.

“Right!” Mr. Punch whooped. “That’s the way to do it.” He winked at Naasir. “Sorry, foreign chum, ‘bout lockin’ you out only we had that girl in here and I don’t like her much. Had to keep her out.”

“You mean Miss Ulrika, Sir.” Naasir chuckled. “She’s quite…unusual.”

“I’d say.” Punch nodded Julian’s head. He picked up and egg and studied it. “Here, it’s hard. Can’t eat that.”

Naasir politely took the egg from Mr. Punch and placed it back in the cup; he very carefully tapped the egg and removed the top. “I believe one is meant to eat the soft insides from the shell.”

“Interestin’.” Punch grunted, taking a spoon from the tray.

“Naasir, before I eat,” Robert said, “I wouldn’t mind changing into a fresh dressing gown.”

“Of course,” Naasir said. “I’ve taken the liberty of bringing some of your things over from Mr. and Mrs. Halifax’s place.” He walked to the wardrobe and retrieved a dressing gown and nightshirt for Robert. He helped Robert undress while Mr. Punch happily ate his egg.

“Say, this is good.” Mr. Punch grinned.

“Surely, you’ve had eggs before, Mr. Punch.” Robert said, shivering as the cool air of the room hit his skin.

“Probably. Only Julian does most of the eatin’ and he don’t eat too much. Kind of like it, I do.”

“Good to know.” Robert laughed.

Little did they know that from outside their door, someone was watching their cozy domestic scene.

Ulrika smacked her lips hungrily as she watched through the key hole. “The doctor’s not bad lookin’ either.” She whispered.

“He’s a butcher.” Barbara hissed in Ulrika’s ear. “What are they doing?”

“Your brother is eating with the manners of a field hand. He keeps referring to himself in the third person and the others call him ‘Mr. Punch.’” Ulrika whispered.

“That’s one of Julian’s little games. It’s all part of his madness.” Barbara hissed.

“Looking like that, he can be as mad as he wants.” Ulrika smiled.

“Keep your voice down.” Barbara growled softly. “You don’t want me to take back what we gave you, do you?”

Ulrika looked up and smiled. “Barbara, you can’t take it all back. Some things can’t be taken back.”

Barbara grabbed Ulrika by her hair and clamped her hand over the girl’s mouth. “Yes, they can.” She whispered fiercely.

Ulrika bit Barbara’s hand, and she withdrew it quickly, wincing. Ulrika gazed at Barbara viciously. “Don’t try my patience.” She whispered.

“Don’t try mine.” Barbara responded. “Come on, then. And, remember, do as you’ve been told.”

Ulrika rose to her feet and opened the door—walking brazenly into the room.

“Bullox.” Punch spat.

“I thought I’d see how our guests were doing.” Ulrika grinned. “My maid will tend to the fire. It’s so chilly in here. We wouldn’t want anyone to catch their death, would we?” She winked at Robert.

Punch slammed Julian’s fist against the table. “What kind of thing is that to say to a man what’s been so sick?”

“Really, I didn’t mean anything by it.” Ulrika cooed. “Did you both sleep well?”

“Once I locked you out, I did.” Mr. Punch grumbled.

“Lord Fallbridge,” Ulrika said, “Dr. Halifax, you know we have a big occasion on the horizon. Each year Edward and Corliss Cage hold a fantastic ball at their waxworks in New Orleans to mark the changing of the year. I’d like to invite both of you as guests of the Rittenhouse family. Of course, Dr. Halifax, your brother and his little French wife will be in attendance. After all, they’re going to unveil some of his sculptures at the museum.”

“We’re only goin’ back to New Orleans to get on a ship to go home.” Mr. Punch said. “And, when we do go, we aim to take back with us what we came for.” He narrowed Julian’s eyes at Barbara.

“How curiously you look at my maid.” Ulrika tittered.

“You know somethin’ you shouldn’t oughtta know.” Mr. Punch glared.

“Whatever could you mean?” Ulrika sighed. “Now, can I count on the two of you to come as our guests?”

“Already told ya, we ain’t goin’ to no ball. We’re gonna get on a ship, we are, and go back to England where we live. Don’t like it here.”

“We’d be delighted to attend,” Robert rasped. “Providing I’m well enough to go.”

“Here! Are you barmy, Chum?” Mr. Punch asked.

“No, Julian.” Robert said the name pointedly. “It would simply be impolite to refuse such a kind invitation. Besides, I would be interested in seeing my brother’s work on display.”

“Huh.” Punch grunted.

“I’m so pleased.” Ulrika smiled. “Come, Barbara, you can help me with my hair.”

With that, Barbara and Ulrika left the room.

Naasir locked the door behind them. “Might I suggest, Mr. Punch, that you hear the doctor out before you react?”

Mr. Punch frowned and hunched Julian’s shoulders. “Chum,” he said slowly to Robert. “Love you, I do, but I think you’re talkin’ out of fever. We ain’t goin’ to no ball!”

“Of course we are.” Robert coughed. “It’s the only way to get what we’ve come for. And, it’s the perfect way to make sure The Elegant Ogress is silenced forever.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-69? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Manage Your Time

Do you find yourself always late for appointments?  Have you ever realized that you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time fussing with something that isn’t really all that important?  To remove an extra element of stress from your life, you can keep track of your time.  Remember your priorities.  Some things just aren’t that important.  There’s no reason to waste time over minutiae that you just can’t control.  Focus on the relevant things and let go of the small annoyances.  You’ll spend a lot less time rushing around, and, in fact, you’ll even find a little time to relax at the end of a long day.

Object of the Day: Antique Folding Travel Clock

This interesting item was purchased in London and given to me as a gift in the mid 1990’s.  I had never seen one quite like it before.  Dating to the early 1900’s, this silver-faced travel clock is cased in a leather-covered nickel shell.  The clock folds on a hinge into the case so that it can easily slip into a pocket or bag.  When needed, the clock unfolds to reveal its shining, machine-turned face and gold-accented numbers in a font which clearly speaks of the period between 1910-1920.  A small silver handle just below the latch adds an extra bit of flare to this attractive and useful object. 
This clock falls into a category of antiques which I just love—those personal items which were used regularly.  Small, intimate objects such as this seem to be imbued with the spirit of the people who used them.  Lovingly cared for, the clock is in excellent condition.  I like to think that this little object offered comfort and order to someone as they journeyed away from home.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Painting of the Day: “Ladies Leaving the French Opera House,” Paul Poincy, 1895

Ladies Leaving the French Opera House
Paul Poincy, 1895
The Louisiana State Museum
A native of New Orleans with French ancestry, Paul Poincy was an integral figure in the Southern American art world. Known for his portraits, landscapes and street scenes, Poincy had a passion for depicting daily life in New Orleans. His paintings serve as records of a time which might have otherwise become largely forgotten.

Poincy’s father, the Marquis Rosignol des Dunes de Poincy, appreciated his son’s artistic talent at an early age and sent him to study painting in Paris. Upon his return to New Orleans in 1859, Poincy took residence in an apartment on Royal Street where he could observe the comings-and-goings of the fashionable and common alike. Poincy founded The Southern Art Union and the Artists’ Association of New Orleans. His love for his city of origin and its people is evident in his work. His painting, Ladies Leaving the French Opera House is testament to this love. The care with which he has rendered this scene of daily life in the French Quarter cannot be missed. If not for Paul Poincy and his fellow artists, such moments would be lost forever.

Unusual Artifacts: A Snuffbox from King George III

Gold Presentation Box with
Cipher of King George III
Alexander James Strachan, 1809-1810
Purchased by Queen Elizabeth II
The Royal Collection
We go now from Bourbon Street to Georgian snuffboxes—King George III, that is. It seems that one of the things a monarch does is give gifts to important people. Giving these “presentation gifts” was a particular skill of King George III who favored gifts of watches and snuffboxes above all others.

This gold presentation box was a gift from George III to a now unknown recipient. The box is gold which has been chased with English Oak leaves. The center of the box has been embellished with a blue enameled circle inset with a George III’s cipher set in diamonds. On the reverse, the box is inscribed with the maker’s mark of Alexander James Strachan—an artisan known for his exceptional gold-work boxes. Strachan’s work was retailed through the Royal Goldsmiths at the time, Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, who almost certainly secured the commission for him.

Though snuff is not quite the fashion these days, I wouldn’t turn down one of these boxes. However, George III doesn’t seem to be handing out as many as he did in 1809.

The STBE Challenge: Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

In response to my request for photos, one of our readers, Dashwood, sent me this photo that his wife took of the iconic Bourbon Street sign. The famously crooked sign stands on the corner of Bourbon and St. Phillip’s Street in front of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop—known as one of the longest continuously operated bars in the United States. Bourbon Street is one of the greatest tourist destinations in the U.S. and is considered the heart of New Orleans revelry. Thanks for sending in this great image!

If anyone else has a photo they’d like to share, please email me.

Building of the Week: The Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, Louisiana

The Myrtles Plantation
Built in 1796 by General David Bradford (known as “Whiskey Dave”), the plantation was originally called “Laurel Grove.” General Bradford’s involvement with the Pennsylvania-based tax protest known as “The Whiskey Rebellion” dictated that he remain sequestered. And, so, he lived alone at Laurel Grove until 1799 when he was pardoned. At that time, he brought his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children to live with him at Laurel Grove. One of the General’s daughters, Sarah Mathilde, married Clark Woodruff, a student of the General’s. When General Bradford died in 1808, Clark and Sarah managed the plantation for Elizabeth Bradford until her death in 1830.

In 1834, the Woodruffs sold the plantation to Ruffin Gray Stirling and his wife, Mary Catherine who, upon moving in with their nine children, began an extensive expansion and renovation project which greatly changed the appearance of the house. What we see today with its wrought iron columns and gingerbread is the result of that remodeling. The new house was almost twice as large as its predecessor. Mary Catherine filled the house with exquisite furnishings imported from France and England—many of which remain in the house. They renamed the plantation, “The Myrtles.” In 1854, Stirling died, willing The Myrtles to his wife who managed the property until 1865 when she contracted her son-in-law William Drew Winter to take over the duties. Winter, husband of Mary Catherine’s daughter, another Sarah, was fatally shot by an unknown man, while standing on the front porch. Legend has it that he managed to drag himself inside the house before he died.

A sculpture outside The Myrtles.
In 1880, when Mary Catherine died, she willed the plantation to her son Stephen. However, by that point, the plantation was so heavily in debt that it could not be maintained. After that, the house and lands were sold many times—each time found the property being divided and sold in pieces. Today, The Myrtles is owned by John and Teeta Moss who have opened the mansion to the public as a bed and breakfast as well as a reception center. The Moss’ offer tours of the home and grounds so that tourists can have a chance to take in its Antebellum splendor.

Oh, there is one more thing. The Myrtles is reportedly the most haunted house in America—or at least among them. Owners of the last few decades have reported many strange occurrences. The house has been the subject of many paranormal investigations and programs. Robert Stack once commented that during the filming of his program, “Unsolved Mysteries” the crew experiences all manner of unexplainable difficulties. If you believe in that sort of thing or enjoy it (as I do), you might be interested in knowing about some of the ghosts of The Myrtles. In total, twelve separate spirits have been reportedly haunting The Myrtles.

The figure of Chloe can be seen behind the column at the center
of the photograph.  My thanks to The Myrtles Plantation for the use
of the image.
One of them is reportedly the ghost of William Winter who was shot on the porch. The spirits of children are said to cause otherworldly mischief for visitors. However, the most famous of the ghostly legends is that of Chloe. As the story goes, Chloe, a slave, was the mistress of Clark Woodruff. When she was caught listening at the keyhole, Woodruff had the woman’s ear cut off. Supposedly, to hide her disfigurement, from that point on, she wore a green turban. To exact her revenge, Chloe is said to have baked a cake seasoned with oleander. Her intention was to poison Mr. Woodruff, however, the legend states that, instead, she poisoned Sarah and her daughters. Chloe is said to haunt The Myrtles to this day. In fact, several photographs exist which purport to show Chloe’s ghostly form. If you look closely between the main house and the outbuilding, you can see the figure of a woman in a turban between the two buildings.

Now, if we look at the records, we can see that Sarah Woodruff didn’t die from being poisoned. She died in the second Yellow Fever epidemic as did two of her daughters. So, there’s probably some cause to doubt the legend of Chloe. But, that doesn’t mean that something isn’t haunting The Myrtles. Besides, it’s more fun to think there is.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 69

Cecil hurried through the corridor and down the back staircase. “Adrienne!” He shouted.

“I’m here, darling.” Adrienne answered. “In the front parlor.”

Cecil choked on his words, “Thank God.”

He rushed to the parlor to find Adrienne seated at the piano with Fuller on her lap. The baby poked at the keys and shrieked with delight.

“Master Fuller was feeling a trifle fussy.” Adrienne smiled. “You know how he loves the piano. I thought I’d bring him down here to distract him.” She studied her husband. “Whatever is the matter? You’re shaking.”

“I went to the nursery and you weren’t there. I saw that blasted feather and thought…”

“Oh, darling, come here.” Adrienne smiled. “I’m so sorry. I had left it in there when we checked on the baby with Robert and Mr. Punch. I’ve been meaning to discard it. I’m terribly sorry you were worried.”

Tears welled up in Cecil’s eyes. “If anything had happened…”

“Nothing will happen.” Adrienne said brightly. “We’re all safe. Chidi and the other men are taking their turn guarding the property. We’ll be quite safe.”

Cecil sat on the piano bench next to his wife and child. “I hope so.” He patted his wife’s leg, and then caressed his son’s fuzzy head.

“Would that every child in Marionneaux were as safe.” Adrienne frowned.

“You’re thinking about the Cage child—Holt?”

“Yes,” She nodded. “Corliss Cage was not expecting a child. I saw her not three weeks ago at the charity bazaar and she showed no sign of being with child. In fact, she looked thinner than usual. Cecil, they bought that baby.”

“I’m sure they did. But these things happen.” Cecil sighed.

“Did Edward mention anything to you about a new child in the house?”

“No.” Cecil shook his head. “However, Edward never speaks of the family. All we discuss is the waxworks and schedules. The last time I saw him, the only thing on his mind was the New Year’s Eve Ball in New Orleans at the Museé. I did notice that vicious little brat of his, Orman, playing with a little girl that I’d not seen before. I asked him who she was and he muttered something about it being his niece, Edolie. Orman seemed to be torturing the girl, she was screaming so.”

“He is a terror.” Adrienne sighed. “That’s no place for a baby.”

“As I said, my dear, these things happen.” Cecil said softly.

“I heard you,” Adrienne shook her head. “But, they don’t have to happen.”

“Haven’t we enough of our own about which to worry without getting involved in the Cages’ business?”

“Isn’t it our business? If that child is Lord Fallbridge’s nephew, isn’t it our business? The child has Molliner blood running through his veins. No matter who his father is, and frankly, no matter who is mother is, that child deserves to be in a safe and loving home.”

“Where?” Cecil asked. “With Lord Fallbridge? And Mr. Punch?”

“Why not?” Adrienne answered. “You see how Mr. Punch is with Fuller. He’s a kind and loving soul despite his baser instincts and Lord Julian is a lovely man. Why not let him take care of his sister’s child? Furthermore, there’s always your brother. You don’t think that Robert is going to just give up on Julian when they do return to England. They have some kind of bond. Together, they could provide a fitting home for Holt. It would be a sight better than leaving the babe with the Cages.”

“Edward Cage is one of the wealthiest men in Louisiana. He could provide a good home to the child.”

“If we’re basing good parenting on money, explain to me why Orman is such a beast. Explain to me why Ulrika Rittenhouse is so unpleasant. Besides, Lord Fallbridge is wealthier than both the Rittenhouses and the Cages combined.”

“So you’re suggesting that the child should be removed and given to Lord Julian—to do what with exactly? To take him to England where he and Robert will raise the child in the English countryside?”

“I see no reason why not.” Adrienne said firmly. “Cecil, you’ve told me about the upbringing you and Robert suffered after your mother passed away. Would you want any child to endure what the two of you had to endure?”

“It’s not the same, my dear.” Cecil sighed.

“And, it’s not different, either.” Adrienne replied gently.

“What you’re suggesting is abduction.” Cecil shook his head.

“What I’m suggesting is returning a child to his family.” Adrienne grinned.

Meanwhile, Mr. Punch slept fitfully in front of the fire in Robert’s borrowed room at the Rittenhouse Mansion. His mind—if you could consider him to have a mind of his own—raced with horrifying pictures. He dreamt of long fingers scratching his body and tearing it to sheds. However, the body being torn and shredded wasn’t his body of cloth, it was Julian’s body.

Punch groaned and awoke with a start, bolting upright.

He was startled to find a pair of green eyes staring at him. He leaned back on Julian’s elbows. A wide-shouldered woman sat on the floor next to him.

“You’re some kind of royalty, aren’t you?” Ulrika Rittenhouse said deeply. “What are you doing sleeping on the floor?”

“Here!” Mr. Punch growled. “You got no place in here. This is a room for gentlemen.”

“I like gentlemen. Besides, this is my house and I can go wherever I want.” Ulrika grinned.

“Ain’t right.” Mr. Punch muttered. “Sneakin’ up on a person. Watchin’ him sleep.”

“You don’t talk like a Lord. It’s as if you’re a different man than the one I saw in here earlier.” Ulrika laughed. “How interesting. You look the same. You’re very nice looking, you know.”

“How I look ain’t got nothin’ to do with me, it don’t.” Mr. Punch growled again. “Me—I’m quite ugly. It’s just this one,” he patted Julian’s chest, “has got a pleasant face.”

“Most pleasant, really.” Ulrika cooed.

“Don’t like you.” Mr. Punch grumbled.

“Really, how do you know? We’ve only just met.” Ulrika shook her head so that her auburn hair danced around her shoulders. “Mother says you’re a lunatic. Is that true?”

“Dunno.” Mr. Punch shrugged. “Probably.”

“How exciting.” Ulrika smiled.

“Tell me, Lord Fallbridge, is there a Lady Fallbridge?” Ulrika asked.

“Yep.” Mr. Punch nodded Julian’s head. “And, she’s closer than you might think, she is.”

“Oh, you have a wife.” Ulrika pouted exaggeratedly.

“Huh?” Punch grunted. “No. Got no wife. My kind don’t do so well with wives. Always end up getting hit on the head and dyin.’ Never had one me-self, mind. But, I got kin what do. We’re all the same when we’re in our right bodies. Only I’m not like the others, I ‘spose. That’s why I ain’t got a Judy. That would be a right kerfuffle.”

“I have no idea what you’re saying.” Ulrika squealed excitedly. “But, I do love it, really.”

“Here,” Mr. Punch squinted. “Don’t like you. You need to go now.”

“Why?” Ulrika smiled.

“Cuz, for one, me chum is sick and he’s tryin’ to sleep.” Mr. Punch pointed to Robert. “And for second, as I already told you, I don’t like you.”

“You should have a wife, Lord Fallbridge.” Ulrika leaned forward.

“What for?” Mr. Punch grunted.

“Don’t you know?” Ulrika giggled.

“Don’t really care.” Mr. Punch shrugged.

“To take care of you,” Ulrika winked.

“Huh?” Punch grunted again. “Listen, don’t need takin’ care of. And, if I did, I got me chum.”

“Ah.” Ulrika frowned.

“Also got Naasir what helps me with me clothes and brings me vittles and got Adrienne what smells nice and smiles and Cecil what makes heads and such. And the baby—Fuller. Don’t do much, but he will do soon. Oh, and there’s the nice lady what’s a nurse--like. She taught me how to pray, she did. Got lots a people what care ‘bout me.” Punch continued.

“You are a lunatic.” Ulrika grinned. “I do hope we’ll be friends.”

“Don’t think so.” Mr. Punch shook his head.

“Oh, and I waited all night for your man to leave his post so I could sneak in here and visit with you.”

“Kinda dumb, then, wasn’t it?” Mr. Punch smiled. “Go ‘way, now.”

“Oh, yes, I do like you, Lord Fallbridge.” Ulrika said, getting to her feet. “We’ll visit again tomorrow.”

“Not likely.” Mr. Punch called out to her as she left the room.

“Coo.” Punch sighed, getting up and locking the door. “Ain’t right.”

He walked over to Robert’s bed and leaned over the sleeping man. Very gently, he touched Robert’s forehead. “Still hot, he is.” He put a damp flannel on Robert’s head as he had seen Marjani do.

Mr. Punch sat on the bed at Robert’s feet and leaned against the wall. He put his hands on Robert’s feet and counted his toes. He squinted. “Got ten a these.” He thought very hard for a moment. “’Spose I got ten, too. Huh.”

Robert squirmed a bit.

“Sorry.” Mr. Punch said, removing his hand. “Only yer feet are cold. Hot head, cold feet. Bodies are a lot of mess.” He covered Robert’s feet with the quilt, and pulled a portion of it over himself.

“Gotta get well, Chum.” Mr. Punch whispered. “We gotta get out of this house.”

Once again in her own room, Ulrika Rittenhouse giggled ferociously. “Your brother is insane.”

Barbara Allen squinted. “Keep your voice down, you don’t want your mother to hear you. Remember, what I’ve told you is a secret.”

“Really, Barbara, I can keep a secret.” Ulrika frowned. “I’d have found out anyway. I knew the moment I saw you that you weren’t just a common maid. I can always tell when someone is well-bred. I’ll keep my promise. If you’ll keep yours…”

“We’ll keep ours,” Barbara grinned. “My beloved is on his way presently.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-68?  If so, you can read them here.