Saturday, October 23, 2010

Toys of the Belle Époque: “Tippoo’s Tiger,” c. 1790

Tippoo's Tiger
Victoria & Albert Museum
This magnificent object is really more of a musical instrument than it is a toy.  Well, to be honest, it’s more of a curiosity than anything else.  Indian in origin with distinctly European working parts, Tippoo’s Tiger (also known as Tipu's Tiger) is a magnificent life-sized animated sculpture of a tiger devouring a man in a 1790’s style costume.  Within the tiger’s body, an organ is operated by turning a handle.  This organ—by means of a system of bellows—produced the growls of the tiger and the anguished cries of his victim.  Another miniature organ—also built into the tiger’s body—features 18 pipes which can be played by means of ivory keys and stops set into the tiger’s side.  This really is a peculiar thing.  However, it’s also quite spectacular.  When it came to England in 1808, it was the talk of London society.  On display for many years at the East India Company’s Museum, it eventually reverted to the Crown and is now displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Saturday Sparkle: Queen Elizabeth’s Cartier Diamond Earrings

Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Drop Earrings
Cartier, 1930
The Royal Collection

These earring by Cartier feature large pear-shape diamonds suspended by diamond trillions and baguettes, set in platinum.  They were originally commissioned by The Honorable Mrs. Ronald Greville in 1930.  Mrs Greville, a long-time friend of Queen Elizabeth (mother of Queen Elizabeth II, known as The Queen Mother).  When Mrs. Greville died in 1942, she bequeathed the majority of her diamond jewelry (most of it made by Cartier) to Queen Elizabeth.  Today, these personal items are on display as part of the Royal Collection.

At the Music Hall: “Hold Your Hand Out, Naughty Boy” by C.W. Murphy

Hold your hand out, naughty boy.
Hold your hand out, naughty boy.
Last night, in the pale moonlight,
I saw you, I saw you;
With a nice girl in the park,
You were strolling full of joy,
And you told her you'd never kissed a girl before:
Hold your hand out, naughty boy.

Much as she popularized songs such as Down at the Old Bull and Bush, music hall singer, Florrie Forde made Hold Your Hand Out, Naughty Boy into a public hit. This rousing song about the silliness of men where women are concerned, was perfectly suited to Miss Forde’s flirty style. Enjoy this recording of Miss Forde singing this cheerful song.

Masterpiece of the Week: “A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal,” 1670-2, Johannes Vermeer

A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal
Johannes Vermeer, 1670-1672
The National Gallery, Britain
Though he’s recently come back into the public eye, Johannes Vermeer’s brilliance was largely overlooked for centuries. He produced a comparatively small number of paintings, however, what he did create was remarkable.

Born in Delft in 1632, Vermeer struggled to make a living as a painter despite his enormous talent. By 1653, his skill was recognized and he was named a master of Delft Painters’ School. His exquisitely detailed domestic paintings showed a masterful handling of light. Each painting was filled with meaning and symbolism—very often communicated through a painting within the painting as seen in this example, A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal. Despite the recognition of his work, he continued to have financial troubles and by 1672 was quite destitute. He died young in 1675—leaving his wife and many children penniless.

Despite the sad end to his life, Vermeer left behind some of the finest treasure of Art History. Here is one of them. A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal was painted between 1670 and 1672. Many of Vermeer’s painting were set in the same room—presumably his studio with its intricate marble floor and leaded windows. The landscape painting on the wall appears in other works by Vermeer. The painting of cupid is meant to represent the young woman’s fidelity and sweetness. The painted interior of the virginal mirrors the landscape on the wall. The whole of the scene demonstrates Vermeer’s typical filtered light. While the painting is poorly documented, stylistically, it is doubtlessly attributed to Vermeer. Such a pity that such a talented man had to die in poverty. Perhaps future generations will be a little kinder to their artists.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 78

Robert took a deep breath and coughed. “Marjani, Naasir, I hope you’re both aware of what you’re doing.”

“We are, Sir.” Naasir responded.

“We all need to keep our wits about us.” Robert continued. “Now, I’m just as guilty of it as the rest of us. I don’t fault anyone for it. However, we can’t go around with pistols and vials of poison. Ours is to bring these people to justice, not to act as their judge. They’ll be judged when the time is right.”

“This ain’t no poison.” Marjani groaned. “Dr. Halifax, I done give my life up for to make folk well. You don’t think I’m gonna go ‘round poisonin’ people, do ya?”

Robert looked stunned. “I just assumed.”

“Well, no disrespect, Doctor, but you done assumed wrong.” Marjani laughed.

“If it’s not a poison, what is it, then?” Cecil asked, rubbing his ankle.

“It’s a powder.” Naasir began.

“Well, we can see that, then, can’t we?” Mr. Punch grumbled.

“A special powder, Sir.” Naasir continued. “When diluted in liquid and consumed by a person, it encourages their positive spirits to rise to the surface.”

“So, it’s Voodoo.” Robert said flatly.

“Call it what you like, Dr. Halifax.” Marjani grinned. “But, I’m tellin’ you for true, it does the trick.”

“Well, what happens when their positive spirits ‘rise to the surface’?” Cecil asked gruffly.

“Mr. Halifax, then they tell the truth. All the awful things they got in their hearts are released. Once they’re free of their burden, they can turn their hearts to joy.”

“If that’s the case, then, why don’t we just fill the ocean with the stuff and live in some kind of Utopia?” Cecil asked sarcastically.

“Cuz, Mr. Halifax. It only works when it’s done given from the hand of a prince.” Marjani said seriously. “Naasir is that prince.”

“Huh.” Punch grunted.

“And when the prince can borrow strength from one of the great ones—like the Great Man of the Rocks here—his power is all the stronger.” Marjani continued.

“Rubbish.” Cecil spat.

“Now, Brother, don’t let’s be so dismissive of their beliefs. There is something to be said for faith.” Robert responded hoarsely.

“You’re not serious?” Cecil raised his eyebrows.

“Cecil, there’s no harm in believing in something. Sometimes when you believe, things actually work.” Robert frowned.

“You’ve gone mad from your fever.” Cecil grumbled irritably.

“It makes just as much sense as wandering out in the night with a pistol.” Robert spat.

“Ha.” Mr. Punch whooped. “Me chum got you there.” He looked at Naasir. “Here, how’s Naasir gonna borrow me strength?”

“You will both need to pour the powder into the drinks.” Marjani answered. “I was going to help. I am not without my own power. However, Arthur, Barbara and Miss Rittenhouse have demons inside them that are stronger than me.”

“What does Miss Rittenhouse have to do with this?” Robert asked. “You don’t mean the girl—what’s her name? Erica?”

“Ulrika.” Cecil corrected him. “You’ve seen her. Don’t you think she’s got a demon in her?” Cecil laughed.

“She’s got a lotta things in her.” Punch frowned.

“She and Arthur been carryin’ on. Barbara Allen is terrible angry.” Marjani shook her head.

“Arthur certainly is a popular fellow,” Robert squinted. “I find it rather curious since he’s so terribly odious. He’s not bad looking in a rough sort of way, but he’s utterly lacking in charm.”

“Some women like that.” Marjani shrugged. “Miss Ulrika—she likes jus’ ‘bout anything.”

“Charming.” Robert sighed.

“So, we give this powder to ‘em, and then they’re ‘sposed to have their goodness come out?” Mr. Punch asked. “But, what if they ain’t got no goodness in ‘em?”

“Everyone has some good in them, Sir.” Naasir said softly.

“Don’t be so sure.” Cecil grumbled.

“Here, I’m up for it, then.” Mr. Punch said gleefully. “Not as much fun as hittin’ with a stick, but it should be a lark. After all, Arthur’s the man what poisoned us. Seems only fair I should put somethin’ in his drink. This, at least, won’t hurt him like he done me chum and then I don’t have to worry ‘bout havin’ killed him this time.”

“Marjani,” Robert said. “You really can’t think that involving Mr. Punch in this is a wise idea.” Robert lowered his voice. “I hate to say it, but he’s not the most inconspicuous person in the world.”

“Can be…whatever it is what you just said.” Mr. Punch frowned. “Listen, babies and dogs like me fine. Don’t see why I can’t be ‘spicious.”

“All I mean, dear Punch, is that you tend to get overexcited. You might risk getting yourself in more danger.”

“Bah!” Mr. Punch grunted. “I can do all sorta things, I can.”

Marjani nodded. “That you can, Sir.”

“So, when do we do it?” Mr. Punch asked.

“I don’t think I can agree to this.” Robert shook his head.

“You must, Sir!” Naasir blurted out. “You must—it is written!”

Robert leveled his eyes at Naasir. “I’ve been very patient with you, Naasir, since you insinuated yourself into our lives. I’ve grown to like you and to trust you. However, in matters that concern Lord Julian, I will speak on his behalf regardless of what you say is written and what isn’t. He is a man—a human man and for all of his warmth and charm, he’s not in the best of health. I’m not just his companion, but his physician. I will decide what he does and when.” Robert’s body shook with a fit of coughing.

“I should think I would have a say in what me master and I do.” Mr. Punch said softly. “I’m half of him, I am. It ain’t just Julian in here.”

“I know,” Robert answered. “I’m sorry, Mr. Punch. Of course, you have a say. I’m your companion as well as Julian’s. When I said ‘Julian’ just now, I meant…all of that…” He waved his hand at Julian’s body. “Both of you.”

“I understand,” Mr. Punch smiled. “It is confusin’.”

“Quite.” Robert chuckled. He looked to Naasir. “I don’t mean to offend you, Naasir.”

“I am not offended, Sir. Your reaction does not surprise me.”

“I wouldn’t guess that it would. Nothing seems to surprise you. It seems you already know everything in advance anyway. You’re just terribly quiet about it.” Robert sighed.

Cecil cleared his throat. “If Mr. Punch wants to be a part of this, I think it should be his decision. He will act in everyone’s best interest. If this is—in some small, strange way—a means of defeating Iolanthe Evangline and removing her from my wife and child, then I will have the faith that you so heartily promote. I’ll have faith in this voodoo and I’ll have faith in the abilities of Mr. Punch and Naasir.”

Robert pressed his lips together. “I’m outnumbered. Very well, Mr. Punch. The decision is yours.”

Punch grinned. “Can I carry the powder?”

At that very moment, in the stables, Ulrika and Barbara continued to argue. Arthur, on the other hand, paced uneasily across the straw. He had heard the shots from Cecil’s pistol and had a feeling something was terribly wrong.

“So, you’re his wife?” Ulrika spat. “Really?”

“Yes.” Barbara bellowed. “We were married when we docked.”

“Yet you were still willing to lend your husband to me?” Ulrika smirked. “Not a very wifely act, is it?”

“A deal is a deal.” Barbara frowned.

“Then, let’s strike a new deal.” Ulrika narrowed her eyes.

“Quiet!” Arthur growled.

They paused and heard scratching at the stable door. Within seconds, the door slid open.

“Professor!” Arthur gasped, his eyes widening.

The professor walked into the stable, carrying Iolanthe Evangeline’s limp body. He gently placed The Elegant Ogress on the hay. Blood gushed from her shoulder.

“Well, then, Arthur, not so dead after all.” The professor bellowed.

“Who is this woman?” Ulrika demanded. “Who are you? What are you doing on my family’s land?”

“A girl dressed like you are in a stable with the likes of these two in the middle of the night ain’t got no right to ask me questions like that. So, shut your mouth.”

“What’s happened to Miss Evangeline?” Barbara rushed to her employer’s side.

“Been shot.” The Professor grunted. “Lost a lot of blood.” He grinned at Barbara. “Gonna need some of yours.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-77? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, October 25 for Chapter 79 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Convert Your Music

Any of us over thirty probably has a stash of CDs tucked away somewhere, and perhaps even (gasp!) cassette tapes.  There was a reason we purchased that music.  Simply put, we liked it.  So, though formats have changed, we still can listen to the music that we enjoyed from those CDs.  Instead of spending money on downloading music you already own, take a few minutes this weekend to convert those CDs to MP3 files that you can play on your iPod or iPhone?  It’s relatively easy.  Most computers have software preloaded that will assist you with this.  Or, if all else fails, just play the CD.  You’ll enjoy listening to the music and the memories it will bring back.

Object of the Day: An Antique Psaltery

A psaltery is a musical instrument in the same family as the autoharp or zither. Psalteries have been created for thousands of years. Along with the autoharp, they reached a level of popularity as a drawing room instrument in the mid-to-late Nineteenth Century.

This particular psaltery is American in origin. Crafted in New York in the late Nineteenth Century, the psaltery still sports its original label which states that it was designed by Satis Coleman. The maple case featured delicately rounded corners and a brilliant polish. In remarkably good condition, it’s still even (mostly) in tune.

I have no idea how to play it, but it does make for an attractive decorative item. Antique musical instruments have a very positive spirit about them. From their creation onward, they’ve brought joy to many people.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Fun: Emanuele Luzzati’s “Pulcinella,” 1973

Emanuele Luzzati (1921-2007) was one of the foremost Italian animators of his time. A painter, production designer, and film director, Luzzati was inspired by classical theatrical works and music. His short animated film, Pulcinella, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1973. The film shows a scene of perennial trickster, Pulcinella (Mr. Punch’s Italian predecessor) as he struggles with his wife, gets into a little tangle with the law, and embarks on a wild, Punch-like, fantastical spree. The film is set to the music of Il Turco in Italia by Rossini.

This really is quite lovely and charming…

Antique Image of the Day: “The New Castle at Balmoral,” 1854

The New Castle at Balmoral
June, 1854
Wilson and Hay
The Royal Collection
During the 1840’s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert greatly enjoyed their visits to Scotland and decided to make a permanent residence there.  In 1848, they acquired the lease on the estate at Balmoral and purchased the property outright in 1852.  They found the existing home on the grounds to be too small for their needs.  Prince Albert worked very closely with architects and designers to build a new castle nearer to the River Dee.  This rare photograph is one of only a few which shows Balmoral Castle under construction.  Taken in 1854, the image is an interesting look at a British Landmark during its “birth.” Balmoral Castle was completed in 1856 and was Queen Victoria’s preferred home.  The castle is still a favorite of The Royal Family.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Watercolor Mr. Punch and His Bottler

Punch & Judy
E. Masters
Nineteenth Century
Ink and Watercolor on Paper, Unique
Tate Britain
While not much in practice today, earlier Punch & Judy shows often featured a “bottler.” The bottler acted as an assistant to the “Professor” by corralling people toward the stage. He would attract interest by playing an instrument—a drum, a violin—and acted basically as a warm-up act. Sometimes, the bottler would interact with the puppets.

Here, we see a Nineteenth Century watercolor, pen and ink drawing by English artist E. masters depicting a scene of a Punch & Judy show about to begin. The bottler bangs his drum to alert the crowds. He also seems to be playing a mouth organ which is attached to a support around his neck. Curiously, Mr. Punch appears to have already captured “the Devil” who is either impaled on the end of his slapstick or hanging from the top of the tent.

This whimsical drawing neatly captures the playful spirit of a live Punch & Judy performance. It was purchased as part of a larger collection by the Tate Britain in 1996.

Pets of the Belle Époque: Princess Elizabeth with a Parrot and a Terrier, 1928

Princess Elizabeth, Queen Mary, the Earl of Athlone
with "Charlotte" and "Snip," 1928
From the  Private Collection of Queen Mary
The Royal Collection
Long before she was Queen, Elizabeth was a happy tot who enjoyed playing outdoors and spending time with the family pets.  In this photograph from 1928, we see Queen Elizabeth (then, Princess Elizabeth) with her grandmother, Queen Mary and the Earl of Athlone outside one of the family residences.  She is joined by a rather substantial parrot named “Charlotte” and a terrier named, “Snip.”  Now, knowing terriers as I do, I am quite surprised to see that Charlotte isn’t in Snip’s mouth.  Perhaps this is the “before” picture.  Nevertheless, Her Majesty looks quite cute.  I wonder if the parrot was named for Queen Charlotte—wife of King George III.  Probably not, but it’s a nice thought.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 77

Mr. Punch dropped the flannel that he’d been playing with and rushed to the recently-repaired window. Robert joined him. Together, they peered out into the dim light in the clearing below them. They could make out Marjani and Naasir running toward the edge of the property.

Mr. Punch opened the window.

“Mr. Halifax!” Marjani screamed again.

“Is she calling for me?” Robert asked, turning around to get his dressing gown from the footboard of the bed.

“Here, what do you think you’re doin’, Chum?” Mr. Punch grabbed Robert by the arm with Julian’s uninjured hand.

“I’ve got to see what’s happening.” Robert said. “What if someone’s hurt?”

“Won’t do havin’ you go out there in the cold—not in the condition you’re in.” Mr. Punch said firmly.

“Someone could have been shot, Mr. Punch.” Robert said quickly. “You heard Marjani calling for me.”

“You’re not the only Mr. Halifax ‘round here, now, are ya?” Mr. Punch shook his head.

“If it’s Cecil, then all the more reason for me to go.” Robert argued, coughing slightly.

“No. Ain’t gonna let that happen.” Mr. Punch answered. “I’ll go down.”

“Punch…” Robert began.

“Now, Chum, listen, I’ll behave me-self. Even pretend to be Julian, I will.” Mr. Punch responded. “Only, I can’t let you leave this room. I’ll come straight back and tell you what’s gone on.”

“If someone’s injured, you must come and fetch me.” Robert frowned.

“I will.” Punch said. “Now, I’d best get me-self out there.”

Mr. Punch hurried out of the room and ran through the passage. At the top of the stairs, he came upon Carling Rittenhouse who shrieked at him.

“Lord Fallbridge, did you hear that? Shots! Merciful Heavens, I don’t know what to do. My husband is in town. I’m alone here!” She cried.

“You’re not alone, Mrs. Rittenhouse,” Punch responded calmly in Julian’s voice. “I’m here. I shall go investigate. I will report back to you forthwith. I’m sure there’s nothing to alarm you.”

“Thank you, Your Lordship.” Mrs. Rittenhouse said in such a way that she seemed almost sincere.

Mr. Punch trotted down the curving staircase and slipped out the rear door of the mansion.

“Marjani!” He shouted into the clearing—using his own voice.

“Mr. Punch!” Marjani said. “Come quick!”

Marjani emerged from the darkness. She had her arm around the shoulders of Cecil Halifax who was supported on the other side by Naasir.

“Brother Chum!” Punch cried. “Say you’ve not been shot at!”

“No, no.” Cecil shook his head. “It was I who did the shooting. I tripped and turned my ankle.”

“Who were you shootin’ at?” Mr. Punch tilted his head to one side.

“I saw her.” Cecil grumbled. “I wanted to kill her.”

“Who?” Mr. Punch asked. “Me master’s sister what’s so rotten?”

“No.” Cecil shook his head, limping as he walked. “Iolanthe Evangeline.”

“Coo.” Mr. Punch gasped. “So, she is here in this strange town.”

“I saw her lurking.” Cecil panted. “I fired—three times.”

“Did you get her?” Mr. Punch asked.

“I’m not sure.” Cecil said. “She disappeared into the dark again.”

“Come on, Mr. Halifax, we’re gonna get ya up to your brother. He’ll take a look at that ankle.” Marjani said. “Naasir, you’re gonna hafta support most of his weight up them stairs. I’m not as strong as I used to be.”

“Of course, I will, Mrs. Caruthers.” Naasir nodded.

With little effort, Naasir and Marjani helped Cecil up to Robert’s room. On their way, they passed Mrs. Rittenhouse.

“Oh dear!” Carling Rittenhouse squealed.

“Mr. Halifax saw a prowler and fired his pistol.” Mr. Punch said calmly—speaking as he thought Julian might.

“Oh!” Carling gasped. “Did you catch him?”

“It was…” Cecil began.

Mr. Punch interrupted. “We’re not quite sure of that. I think we should all be thankful that Mr. Halifax is safe.”

“Yes, of course.” Carling nodded. “Thank you for looking after my property.”

“My pleasure.” Cecil panted—wishing to end the conversation.

“However, what were you doing out here in the dark?” Mrs. Rittenhouse asked.

“I was coming to see my brother,” Cecil answered quickly. “I brought the pistol along because we’ve had some trouble with prowlers lately.”

“I see.” Mrs. Rittenhouse nodded slowly.

“Miss Rittenhouse, pardon me for interuptin’, but Mr. Halifax’s ankle done got twisted and wants lookin’ at.” Marjani smiled.

“Certainly.” Mrs. Rittenhouse said. “Feel free to stay as long as you’d like. I will retire now.”

Marjani and Naasir helped Cecil into Robert’s room.

Robert gasped when he saw his brother. “Dear God, Cecil!”

“I’m fine, Robert.” Cecil said quickly, settling into a chair with Naasir’s assistance. “I’ve just turned my ankle.”

“Get his boot off.” Robert said to Naasir.

“What were you doing out there?” Robert asked, kneeling down to examine his brother’s ankle.

“I’ll tell ya what he were doin’.” Mr. Punch smiled. “He was shootin’ at the ‘ogress.’”

“Iolanthe Evageline was here?” Robert asked.

“On the Cages’ land.” Cecil winced as Robert pressed on his ankle.

“Good thing you had your pistol.” Robert muttered. “This is swelling quickly. Marjani…”

“I’ll get some cold rags.” Marjani nodded, going to the washstand.

“Cecil,” Robert began, “why were you on Mr. Cage’s land?”

“I was cutting through there to come here.” Cecil mumbled.

“When you yourself warned me not to trespass on the Cage’s property?” Robert raised an eyebrow. “Why didn’t you walk up the road on the red hill?”

“It would have taken longer.” Cecil said softly.

“Especially weighted down with your pistol.” Robert coughed.

“I have a right to carry my pistol if I want.” Cecil snapped. “Wouldn’t you? You know that Iolanthe’s henchmen are out there. And, now, we’ve seen the beast herself! I was correct to carry a weapon.”

“You weren’t coming here. Were you?” Robert asked.

Cecil sighed. “No.”

“Say, what were you doin’, Brother Chum?” Mr. Punch asked.

“I was going to retrieve Lady Barbara’s child.” Cecil answered flatly. “And to teach Edward Cage not to make a fool of my wife.”

“Cecil,” Robert sighed. “Didn’t you caution me just the other day about acting rashly?”

“I did.” Cecil nodded. “However, now I can understand your passion. I should have let you shoot those men when you had the chance. Now, their leader is afoot. If only I were a better aim. She just appeared out of the sugar cane. She moved too quickly for me to get a good shot.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Robert said softly, wrapping a bandage tightly around his brother’s ankle. “I’m grateful that Marjani and Naasir were out there to help you.”

“Here,” Mr. Punch grinned. “Seems like everyone but you and me, Chum, were out walkin’ in the night.” He looked to Naasir and Marjani. “Just what was it that the two of ya were doin’ out there in the cold?”

Naasir and Marjani glanced at each other quickly.

“Don’t tell me you were also trying to rescue Barbara’s child.” Robert rasped.

“We were not.” Naasir said honestly.

“What was you doin’, then? The two of ya both wantin’ to have the evenin’ to yourselves.” Mr. Punch asked.

Marjani spoke up. “We called upon the Holy One for guidance. We were going to stop the foolishness of those people for true.”

“Which people?” Robert asked.

“That man, Arthur, and Lord Fallbridge’s sister.” Marjani answered.

“How’d you aim to do it?” Mr. Punch’s eyes widened.

Naasir produced the vial of red powder from his pocket. “With this.”

“And what is that?” Robert coughed.

“Somethin’ more powerful than anything on this earth.” Marjani smiled.

“Did you use it?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Not yet.” Marjani shook her head.

“Will you show me what to do with it?” Mr. Punch asked.

She looked at Naasir who nodded.

“Yes, Great Man. It is time. The circumstances are too powerful for just the two of us.” Naasir smiled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-77? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Frame a Special Photograph

Before the days of digital cameras, we had to actually get our pictures developed.  There was always something exciting about picking up that envelope of photos from the lab.  The feeling of that firm stack of images in the long envelope, the excitement of opening it up and flipping through them—those sensations are lost to us now.  A good many of us have some stacks of photographs somewhere in our homes.  This weekend, locate some of those images that have been filed away.  Select one or two that represent special times and memories and get yourself an attractive frame or two.  We took the photos so that we could commemorate a time in our lives.  Why not enjoy the memory by being able to look at it every day?

Object of the Day: English Portrait of a Gentleman, 1880

My love of portraiture always draws me to paintings like this. Portraits capture the personalities of people in ways that photography can’t. Artistic representations sum up the overall spirit of an individual while a photograph scientifically steals a moment in time.

This portrait of an unknown sitter is unsigned. It is painted on a wooden board. Its origins become clearer when we study the reverse of the painting. Though ripped and largely missing, the back of the piece has been lined with newspaper. The paper reads, “The Strand” and is dated to 1880. That places this painting around that time period. However, it could have been painted earlier. The gentleman’s attire suggests that this was painted in the mid to late 1870’s.

He’s one of many rather grim gentlemen who line the walls of my home. He’s more benign looking than some of his painted brothers. With his slight smile, ruddy cheeks and crinkled eyes, there’s a slightly mischievous look to him. I find it interesting that the painting has been framed in a wooden, inset oval when there’s nothing particularly oval about the portrait. I’ve often wondered if there’s a signature somewhere beneath that oval, but I’ve not removed it from the frame because I am loathe to destroy the bits of 1880-era newspaper which remain. And, so, he will forever be a bit of a mystery. Still, regardless of who painted him, he’s a pleasant companion to the other two-dimensional people who gaze out from their gilt cages.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mastery of Design: The Dagmar Necklace, 1863

The Dagmar Necklace, 1863
The Royal Collection
Intricate strands of pearls meet at diamond florets which connect to diamond-lined, golden volutes. Two graduated diamond swags join the central floret and frame luscious, dangling baroque pearls. A replica of the Twelfth Century Dagmar Cross hangs proudly from the center—a symbol of the power of Denmark. Overall, 118 pearls and over two thousand diamonds grace this gold and enamel masterpiece.

This necklace was created in 1863 and was given as a gift by King Frederick of Denmark to Princess Alexandra to commemorate her wedding to the Prince of Wales (who would later become Kind Edward VII). This remarkable design was one of Queen Alexandra’s most cherished pieces of jewelry. Today, it is on display in the Royal Collection.

Gem of the Week: The Opulent Opal

Queen Charlotte's Opal Ring, 1810
The Royal Collection
Opal is actually a mineraloid composed of a system of small silica spheres which refract the light and cause tension within the stone. The spacing and number of these spheres governs the color of the light which is refracted from the opal. These spheres often exhibit tiny cracks which further change the “color play” (the rainbow effect that the stone demonstrates). Some gem-quality opals are backed with a dark stone material which serves to emphasize the color play.

Opals come in an array of colors and each exhibits unique color refractions. Fire Opal displays warm colors—oranges, yellow, reds and sometimes greens. Often, a Fire Opal is backed in dark stone. Peruvian opals show a blue-green body color. Opals also occur naturally in clear, white, gray, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, magenta, rose, pink, slate, olive, brown, and black. Black opals which exhibit flashes of red are the rarest of these stones.

Opals need special attention. They should not be cleaned in commercial jewelry cleaner as it will dry the stone out. Opals are prone to cracking. The best defense against this is handling your opals. The natural oils in your skin will serve to keep the stones from becoming brittle.

This is a stone with a very mystical quality. Opals have long been regarded as beautiful and they have graced the bodies of people for centuries. Opals reached a peak in popularity in Victorian England and were considered a sentimental favorite. Today, opals are often incorporated into silver jewelry. Their earthy, casual quality suits a variety of occasions.

Submit Your Nominations for Humanitarian of the Year

Since Stalking the Belle Époque began in July, I’ve spotlighted thirteen different individuals whose kind spirits and heroic efforts have made the world a better and more beautiful place. Each Tuesday, until December 21, I will feature another Humanitarian of the Week. At the end of the year, Stalking the Belle Époque will announce its Humanitarian of the Year. From now until November 30th, you’ll have the opportunity to submit your nomination for Humanitarian of the Year. The person you nominate must somehow be involved with the arts and/or humanities and must have displayed good stewardship and kindness that has changed the world for the better. In December, we’ll vote for Humanitarian of the Year from both my list and yours. The people that have already been selected thus far are:

Fran Drescher—actress, author, activist, talk show host
Betty White—actress, animal rights activist
Niecy Nash—television personality, actress
Bobbie Eakes—singer, actress
Elizabeth Taylor—legend, actress, AIDS activist
Hattie McDaniel—actress, pioneer
Bette Davis—legend, actress, activist
David Walliams—actor, author, swimmer
Audrey Hepburn—legend, actress, activist
J.R. Martinez—actor, veteran, spokesperson
Mark Andrews—performer, Punch & Judy man, public speaker
Bernadette Peters—singer, actress, author, activist
Angela Lansbury—singer, actress, author

We’re fortunate to live in a world that has been influenced by these people. Now, invite you to share with me the people who have made a difference in your lives. I look forward to your submissions.

Song of the Week: “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls,” 1843

The Gallery Entrance Hall
Buckingham Palace
The British Monarchy
Though few people remember the 1843 opera The Bohemian Girl by Alfred Bunn and Michael William Balfe, most everyone has heard its most popular aria, “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls.” The song has been recorded multiple times by various artists ranging from Joan Sutherland to Enya and Celtic Woman. “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls” has remained a popular and influential song which has moved people in all walks of life. Writer James Joyce quoted the song in his work, Clay, and filmmaker Martin Scorsese included it in his film The Age of Innocence.

The song was written for the lead character in The Bohemian Girl—Arline—as she recalls her foggy memories of childhood. The theme of the song concerns the value of true love despite material wealth. This theme has contributed to the song’s enduring popularity—though our society changes, our fundamental desires and priorities do not.

In 1962, Dame Joan Sutherland performed the role of Arline in The Bohemian Girl, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. The audio from this performance is included below.

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Guitar Player

“Do you know ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’?”
Image: The Guitar Player, Johannes Vermeer, 1632, Kenwood House, London

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 76

Naasir crouched in the hedgerow behind the stables on the Rittenhouse estate. A rustling in the thicket behind him startled him. He smelled the air and relaxed his shoulders. He knew Marjani was nearby.

“I done hurried,” Marjani whispered as she approached Naasir. “Is the man in there?”

“Arthur is there, yes.” Naasir responded softly. “However, he’s not alone.”

“That Barbara’s with him?” Marjani frowned.

“No.” Naasir shook his head. “Listen.”

Marjani paused and cocked her head to one side. She heard a deep laugh come from the stables—a laugh that was almost feminine.

“Can’t be.” Marjani shook her head.

“Yes.” Naasir nodded.

“Let’s take ourselves over to the front and tuck ourselves behind the oaks.” Marjani whispered. “Then, we can see inside through one o’ them doors.”

Naasir nodded again. Very quietly, they made their way toward the row of thick oak trees which stood in front of the stables. The trees were hung with Spanish moss which tickled their heads with rough gray fingers as they hid.

Inside the stable, they could see Ulrika Rittenhouse tossing her flaming hair back as she laughed.

“Oh, Arthur, really.” Ulrika growled. “You are terrible.” She pressed her body against the man who lay against a mound of disheveled hay.

“Get off me, would ya?” Arthur barked.

“You didn’t tell me to get off of you the other night.” Ulrika grinned.

“That was only for one time. You know that. That were the deal we struck.” Arthur said roughly.

“It doesn’t have to be.” Ulrika said, running her hand across Arthur’s shoulder.

“Sure does.” Arthur said. “I wasn’t so happy ‘bout it at the first. But, that’s the bargain you made with Barbara and I wasn’t goin’ to make a liar of her.”

“You’re awfully loyal to Barbara.” Ulrika frowned.

“I am.” Arthur nodded.

“It seems to me that your loyalty is misplaced.” Ulrika crossed her arms.

“How do ya figure?” Arthur spat.

“Well, it’s simply that a woman who would hire you out the way she did—really, is she worthy of your love? Now, I could give you my love and so much more. My family is very wealthy.”

Arthur laughed cruelly. “And, Barbara’s isn’t? She’s a lady for God’s sake!”

“Not here she isn’t.” Ulrika said angrily. “Here, she’s a servant and a whore!”

“So am I, Love.” Arthur laughed. “So am I. So, ya see, we’re well matched Barbara and I.”

Ulrika opened the front of the lace dressing gown she was wearing and exposed her bosom to Arthur. She cooed. “Are you telling me that you don’t want me?”

Arthur grabbed a fistful of hay and threw it in Ulrika’s face, laughing.

“That’s exactly what I’m tellin’ you.”

Ulrika sputtered angrily, but made no effort to cover herself.

“Now, get outta here and leave me in peace.” Arthur barked. “Go play with your dolls.”

“I aim to play with you.” Ulrika shouted.

From outside the stable, Naasir gently placed his hand on Marjani’s shoulder.

She smiled at him gently. “These folk are nothin’ better than animals.” She whispered. “Ya see all sorts a things ‘round here. All sorts a things. Ya gotta watch these folk. They take what they want and don’t care nothin’ ‘bout who it hurts. Just ask my girl. She knows. Sometimes, though, blessings come of it. I got me a granddaughter, ya see. She came from pain, she did. But, she’s a right fine girl. Columbia’s her name. She’s more of a lady—even at her tender age—than that hightone rich girl in there.”

Marjani stopped talking when they heard footsteps approaching. Naasir and Marjani hid themselves deeper in the shadows of the oaks.

They watched as Barbara strutted into the stables.

“What is going on in here?” Barbara shrieked. “What is this display?”

“Oh, look. It’s my maid.” Ulrika cooed, still making no effort to cover herself.

“Get away from him.” Barbara shouted. “This is not part of our arrangement.” She drew in a deep breath. “You got what you were promised. Now leave.”

“I give the orders around here, maid.” Ulrika said, finally closing her gown. “In case you’ve forgotten, really, you are subservient to me.”

“We made each other a promise, Ulrika.” Barbara said angrily.

“That’ll be ‘Miss Rittenhouse,’ if you don’t mind.” Ulrika grinned. “Don’t you know that you shouldn’t make promises to strangers? You’ll never be sure how they’ll act. I don’t pretend that I’m a virtuous young thing. I couldn’t be and still get what I want. So, I suspect you’ll want to do what I say.”

“Why should I?” Barbara hissed.

“You don’t want me to tell your attractive, lunatic brother where you’ve hidden that big, beautiful diamond, do you?”

Barbara grunted.

“And, you don’t want your brother’s companion to know that the wicked, wicked footman didn’t die on that ship.” Ulrika continued, unaware that Arthur’s presence was already known to Robert and Mr. Punch. “And, I would hate to have to expose my cousin—the mousy nanny. That would cause such pain—not only for you, but for my family. After all, if it weren’t for her, you wouldn’t be here. You do want to remain here, don’t you? Or do you want your brother to take you back to England?”

“You’re a sorry, little…” Barbara began.

“Tut, tut, maid.” Ulrika grinned. “Remember who your master is.”

“I have but one master.” Barbara said. “And you aren’t she.”

“Yes.” Ulrika tossed her hair. “I am.” She walked over to Barbara. “I am. Now, I don’t want much, really. I merely want the use of your footman. I don’t see why that should bother you.”

“Because he’s my husband!” Barbara hissed.

“Barbara!” Arthur shouted. “Enough!”

From outside the stable, Naasir whispered. “It only gets worse.”

“Always does.” Marjani responded gently. “We can make it stop.”

“When?” Naasir asked, twisting the glass vial of red powder between his long fingers.

“When they settle down, we’ll take ‘way their pain.” Marjani answered.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the mansion, Robert began snoring softly. Mr. Punch listened to his friend’s breathing. His intake of air was less encumbered. Mr. Punch smiled. He walked over and grabbed a flannel off of the washstand—draping it over Julian’s uninjured hand.

Mr. Punch very carefully tucked part of the flannel into the crook of Julian’s thumb and forefinger so that it resembled a mouth.

“That’s the way to do it,” he whispered gleefully, making Julian’s thumb and finger move back and forth like lips.

Punch chuckled to himself.

“Good evening, Mr. Punch.” He whispered in a comic voice, moving his fingers again to make Julian’s hand “speak.” “Have you any sausages?”

“I have no sausages.” Punch giggled.

Mr. Punch paused and sighed. “Here…sausages.” He licked his lips. “Wouldn’t mind some sausages.”

He glanced over at Robert who was still sleeping peacefully.

“Wonder where the larder is in this place.” Mr. Punch mumbled to himself. “Got a hunger, I do.”

He looked at Robert again and considered the possibility of sneaking out in search of a snack.

“Hmmm.” Punch grunted.

Punch’s thought process was interrupted by a loud, sharp noise from outside.

Robert awoke with a start.

The noise repeated—cutting through the silent night sky.

“Shots?” Robert squinted.

“Sounds like when that Cage bloke fired his pistol at us!” Mr. Punch said nervously.

Another shot rang out.

From outside, they heard wild shouting. In the chaos, they heard Marjani scream. “Mr. Halifax!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-75? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Treat Yourself

The ever-present jar of chocolate-covered
For as much as we all try to be careful about what we eat, every so often, it’s acceptable to have a little treat.  As long as we don’t over-indulge, a sweet snack occasionally doesn’t do much harm.  If we deprive ourselves of the foods we enjoy, those cravings can get the better of us and we end up over-eating to compensate.  Today, pick up a bag of your favorite sweet snack and put it in an attractive container.  Allow yourself a few pieces every once in awhile.  Just don’t over-do it.  By displaying the treat in a glass container, you can keep track of your consumption by seeing how much you’ve eaten.  Pace yourself.  We all need a treat now and again. 

Object of the Day: A Pressed Glass “Westie Dog” Candy Dish

This early Twentieth Century covered candy dish features a delicate design along the top surface of the lid and the sides of the container.  The real treat, however, is the pyramid of three West Highland White Terriers which graces the center of the lid.  Serving as a handle for the dish, the westies are elegantly stacked.  The central figure gazes out at us with typical terrier defiance.  His two companions seem focused on holding him up.  In a household that is ruled by a firm, yet furry, dictator, this candy dish is the perfect accessory.  Of course, I’d never fill it with chocolate—the inclusion of “dog poison” in such a container would be an outrage. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Unusual Artifacts: A Gold Brooch Adorned With Teeth, 1853

Gold Brooch With Stag Teeth
R. and S. Garrard and Company, 1853
Presented to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert
The Royal Collection
Prince Albert was an avid hunter.  He spent winters at Windsor Castle and summers at Balmoral in pursuit of game.  One of his favorite little “signatures,” was the presentation of stags’ teeth to friends and loved ones.  He felt that the gift of these teeth was a fitting memento of himself.  While it’s rather peculiar, the idea was a an appropriate one as these teeth do neatly represent Albert’s spirit.  Prince Albert regularly sent parcels of stags’ teeth to Garrards (the Royal jeweler during Victoria’s time on the throne) so that they could be mounted.  He would often present favorite friends and members of the staff with gold pins or buttons which set the teeth like acorns nestled among the leaves.  Queen Victoria was the frequent recipient of Albert’s dental trophies.  She enjoyed them for sentimental reasons.  On Christmas of 1853, Prince Albert presented Queen Victoria with this specially designed brooch of polished teeth mounted with gold oak leaves.  She was a fortunate wife and queen that year—he also gave her a matching necklace and earrings, presumably with more teeth.

Building of the Week: The Winchester “Mystery” House , San Jose, California

One hundred sixty rooms, forty bedrooms, two ballrooms, forty-seven fireplaces, seventeen chimneys (with evidence of two more), ten thousand window panes and three elevators—these are just some of the staggering statistics associated with Sarah Winchester’s sprawling twenty-four thousand square foot Queen Anne mansion in San Jose.

From the outside, this looks just like a normal Victorian Mansion—beautifully painted and meticulously maintained. However, once inside, visitors immediately realize that the house is a peculiar labyrinth—a maze of corridors that end abruptly, staircases that hit the ceiling with no access to the next floor, doors that open into tiled walls, and worse still, doors the open onto thirty-foot drops. Architecturally bizarre, the scale of the structure is off. For example, one staircase—called the Switchback Staircase—climbs seven flights and features forty-four steps. You’d think that would lead to a great height. But, no. The staircase only rises nine feet. You see, the risers are only two inches tall.

As strange as it is, the house is also stunning. The finest craftsmen created intricate woodwork, beautiful plaster, magnificent tiles and opulent stained glass windows. The house also featured unique technologies for the time period: push-button gaslights, internally heated water, steam-powered central air, and indoor water closets. Silver and gold chandeliers line the seemingly endless hallways. Only the highest-quality materials were used. And used…and used…

The house was built ceaselessly for thirty-eight years from 1884 until Mrs. Winchester’s death in 1922. She insisted that work never stop. At one point, the Winchester House reached seven stories in height, however, in 1906, an earthquake destroyed that portion of the mansion. Today, it stands at a proud four stories. Why did Sarah Winchester insist that the house always be in a state of construction? Many people have some theories about that.

Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Winchester—inventor of the Winchester Rifle. Upon his premature death (shortly following the death of their young daughter), Mrs. Winchester inherited millions of dollars. She also inherited an extreme sense of guilt and depression. Legend has it that a medium known as “The Boston Medium” advised Mrs. Winchester to move to California and begin building a home. As long as the house was being built, she would never die. Some believe that the medium told Sarah Winchester that she was haunted by the spirits of all of the people who had been killed by Winchester Rifles. Here, the story differs from telling to telling. Some say that Mrs. Winchester was told that she herself was haunted by the spirits who would kill her if she stopped building the house. Others believe that Sarah was told that the spirits took the lives of her daughter and husband as punishment. Regardless, Mrs. Winchester seems to have believed that she was being tormented by ghosts and assuredly took the psychic’s advice to heart. Construction on the house only stopped after she died.

Many believe that the house’s lack of a blueprint and odd floor plan owe to Mrs. Winchester’s desire to confuse the spirits which she thought haunted her. She had—in the middle of the house—a hidden seance room which could only be accessed through a push-button operated door. To exit, she would slip out of a window, onto a landing, down a flight of stairs, and, yet, somehow end up in the place where she started.

Mrs. Winchester was also obsessed with the number thirteen. The drains all have thirteen holes, the stained glass windows feature thirteen colored stones, coat hooks line up—thirteen in a row. She even went as far as to have an opulent antique chandelier altered so that it would have thirteen arms instead of twelve. In Mrs. Winchester’s honor, a large topiary sculpture of the number thirteen stands outside the mansion, and, on every Friday the Thirteenth, the bell in the clock tower is chimed thirteen times at 1:00 PM (13:00 hours).

Sarah Winchester spent $5.5 million on the construction of her ghost-baffling mansion. That equates to about $71 million dollars in today’s economy. Still, at the time of her death, the house was considered so strange that it only sold for $135,000. Five months after Sarah’s death, the Winchester House was open to the public. Christened, “The Mystery House” by Harry Houdini in 1923, the house is still open to the public who are welcome to tour its winding halls and attend special events on holidays. For more information, visit their Web site.

Introducing: The Cages of Marionneaux, a novel by Joseph Crisalli

Dove Ji is alone.

Estranged from her father and half-sister, Dove's only source of comfort is her adopted mother, Rosa. When Rosa dies, Dove is forced to leave New Orleans and return to Marionneaux, Louisiana--the town that Dove has avoided since the murders of both her natural mother and grandmother.

Wasn't Dove thrilled when Amadeo Iantosca, her handsome boss at the Musée D'Orleans offered to accompany her on her daunting journey? Wasn't Amadeo eager to offer a shoulder and a hand? Wasn't Dove about to be caught in an inhuman trap?

In Marionneaux, Dove reunites with her half-sister, Shelby, and Shelby's fiancé, the abusive Averill Cage. As Dove finds herself entangled in the powerful Cage family's deadly, demented games, she realizes that the key to her salvation lies in the words of a long-dead woman--Columbia Navarre.

Columbia Navarre is alone.

1853 found the Navarre family fleeing the Marionneaux plantation of Manuel Fontanals. As they headed toward freedom in New Orleans, they found themselves gripped in the cruel, boiling fist of the Yellow Fever. The Yellow Jack didn’t care for their freedom and by year's end, Columbia and her grandmother, Marjani, were all that remained of their family.

Marjani and Columbia celebrated their survival by dedicating themselves to nursing those poor souls that had been stricken with the terrible plague. However, in 1873, when Marjani succumbs to the fever, Columbia finds herself on an unexpected quest for truth which leads her back to Marionneaux. There, fair-skinned Columbia discovers that the townspeople don't realize she's black. When wealthy Edolie Cage takes Columbia for a white girl, Columbia feels she must tell the truth.

But, the Cages don't care much for truth--a trait Columbia notices in the fox-like Orman Cage who desperately wants a new wife to help him raise his infant daughter. Columbia takes comfort in her African friends who introduce the staunch Catholic to a world of Voodoo. As Columbia becomes torn between the gris-gris and the Lord Jesus, she finds herself caught in the middle of Orman Cage's murderous war of lust and greed.

Guided by a prostitute known as "The Elegant Ogress," Columbia realizes that she must not only save herself but also pave a path toward freedom for the other young women that would become ensnared by the Cages of Marionneaux.

An epic work of literary fiction, The Cages of Marionneaux is a split-narrative spanning the late nineteenth to early twenty-first centuries. The novel studies the effect that one man's misguided actions can have over an entire population.

Those of you who have read The Garnet Red are already familiar with Dove, Rosa and Shelby. The Cages of Marionneaux picks up with Dove’s story when she becomes an adult. If you’ve been reading Punch’s Cousin here at Stalking the Belle Époque, you’ve been introduced to Marjani, "The Elegant Ogress," The Cages, and the Rittenhouse family. Columbia’s portion of The Cages of Marionneaux concerns these very same characters—twenty years after your 1853 introduction to them. All three works are intertwined, but each stands as an individual story.

The Cages of Marionneaux will be available for purchase this winter. In the meantime, I’m pleased to offer you an advanced peek at two samples from the novel. The first is the beginning of Dove’s story. The second is our introduction to Columbia Navarre in New Orleans, 1873. Enjoy!

Audible Beauty: Betty Buckley’s Newest Album, “Bootleg: Boardmixes From the Road”

The clarity of her voice, the pure emotion with which she delivers a song, the subtlety of her performances—these qualities characterize the magnificent work of Betty Buckley.  Her newest album, Bootleg: Boardmixes From the Road is a deeply moving and thoroughly enjoyable collection of songs performed to perfection by “The Voice of Broadway.” 
From languid ballads to up-tempo standards, this assortment of numbers is an exquisite buffet of delicious music.  The album includes the richly emotional “Ghost in this House,” the exhilarating “It Might as Well Be Spring” and the uplifting, “Straighten Up and Fly Right” among six other songs.  Miss Buckley’s extraordinary range is captured splendidly on this must-have album.  Bootleg: Boardmixes From the Road is now available as a download from iTunes.  Check it out!  Since we can’t see her in person every day, this is the best way to bring the magic of Betty Buckley into your home.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 75

Adrienne hummed softly as she cradled Fuller—rocking gently in the chair next to his crib. Cecil stretched out in the window seat and looked adoringly at his wife and child. How peaceful the scene seemed. Cecil glanced quickly at the setting sun which cast an orange glow through the window. He sighed. If only everything was really as peaceful as it seemed at that moment…

“I wonder how Robert is doing.” Adrienne said quietly.

“The last we heard from Gamilla was that Marjani had reported him much improved.” Cecil answered. “We’ll visit in the morning.”

“Mr. Punch is certainly loyal, isn’t he?” Adrienne smiled.

Fuller’s eyes widened at the mention of Mr. Punch. The baby cooed.

“Ah, what is this, little man?” Adrienne giggled. “Do you miss your Uncle Punch? Not to fear, he’’ll be back. He’s only up the red hill. He’ll be here soon enough to play with you.”

The child rested his head on Adrienne’s shoulder and sighed contentedly.

“You know Marjani brought them a dog?” Cecil smiled.

“That’s what Gamilla told me.” Adrienne chuckled softly. “I imagine that our Punch is thrilled with that.”

“I wonder if Lord Fallbridge likes dogs, too, or if it will be something of a shock when he wakes up one moment to find himself cuddling a pup.” Cecil smiled.

“Of course he likes dogs.” Adrienne grinned. “Don’t all you Englishmen like dogs?”

“We do.” Cecil laughed. “You’re correct.”

Adrienne stroked the baby’s back. “I think he’s ready to sleep now.”

“And, why shouldn’t he be?” Cecil winked. “He knows he’s safe and warm.”

“All children should know that.” Adrienne sighed.

“You’re thinking of Holt.” Cecil murmured.

“I am.” Adrienne frowned. “That baby doesn’t have a chance at a happy life in that house.”

Cecil rubbed his jaw and felt the bruise that Edward Cage had left behind. “I know.”

“Cecil…” Adrienne began.

Cecil held up his hand to silence his wife. “You don’t have to say it. I’m in agreement with you.”

“But, how will we free him?” Adrienne whispered as she lifted Fuller and placed him in his crib.

“Just leave that to me.” Cecil replied lovingly.

“Cecil?” Adrienne raised an eyebrow at her husband.

“Don’t think of it anymore tonight, my dear.” Cecil said reassuringly. He rose and put his arm around his wife. “You know,” he began, “it looks as if it will be a clear, crisp evening. I think I’ll take a stroll.”

“Where?” Adrienne asked suspiciously.

“Perhaps I will go to see Robert now, after all. Surely, Mrs. Rittenhouse won’t mind a visitor if I don’t stay too late.”

“Well, then, I’ll go with you.” Adrienne said. “Gamilla can watch Fuller while he sleeps.”

“I’d like that.” Cecil answered quickly. “However, I think, given the rather uncomfortable situation we’re in, perhaps you should stay here. Chidi’s watching the property, but I’d feel better knowing you were with our son.”

“What are you going to do?” Adrienne whispered.

“I’m going to take a stroll.” He kissed his wife on the forehead. “I shan’t be long.”

“Cecil…” Adrienne began again.

“Darling.” Cecil shook his head.

“Return to me quickly.” Adrienne said firmly.

“I shall.” Cecil grinned. “And, perhaps, I’ll have a surprise for you. I love you, Adrienne”

“I love you, too, my dear.”

With that, Cecil walked from the room. He paused for a moment in the corridor and patted the pocket of his jacket. There, he felt the cold hardness of the pistol. He cleared his throat and headed for the stairs.

Meanwhile, at the Rittenhouse Mansion, Robert was sitting up in bed eating broth from the silver tray Marjani had brought him earlier.

“Mr. Punch,” Robert said—his voice becoming clearer. “You’d best eat your dinner before it gets cold.”

Mr. Punch looked up from where he lay on the floor—Toby, the terrier sitting atop Julian’s stomach. “Can’t.” Mr. Punch grinned. “Toby’s sittin’ on me, he is. Can’t move.”

“You can move.” Robert laughed. “You just don’t want to.”

“Maybe.” Mr. Punch cooed. “Like this thing, I do.” The dog tapped Mr. Punch with a paw.

“I think he likes you, too.” Robert chuckled.

“Ought to have somethin’ to play with.” Mr. Punch said.

“He’s got you.” Robert smiled.

“No, no.” Mr. Punch answered. “Some kind of doll or somethin’. Somethin’ soft like what Fuller’s got.”

“You’re proposing that we get a doll for the dog?” Robert laughed.

“And, why not?” Mr. Punch responded. “Dogs like soft things, too, I’d guess.”

“I think he’s perfectly content chewing on you.” Robert grinned.

“Here, when we go back to England, can we take Toby with us? He’s our dog, he is. He knows we’re gonna love him and give him the things what he needs to be a happy dog. Wouldn’t do to just leave him.”

“I think we can take him home with us.” Robert nodded. He stopped for a moment and thought to himself. “Home with us? Us? Home with who? Me and Julian and Mr. Punch?” He shook his head and chuckled to himself.

“Whatcha thinkin’ ‘bout?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Just about going home.”

“Ah.” Punch grunted.

Marjani knocked on the door and entered.

“Here, look, Toby, it’s the lady what brought you here.”

Toby wagged his tail.

“Hello, gents.” Marjani smiled. “It’s time for to take Toby back to my place at Mr. Fontanals.”

“Oh.” Mr. Punch frowned. “He ain’t had no supper yet.”

“Neither have you, I see.” Marjani frowned playfully. “You know how it is. Can’t let Miss Rittenhouse find us with the dog in here. I’ll make sure to give him his supper when I get him to my place.”

“Fine.” Mr. Punch sighed, sitting up.

Marjani placed Toby in his basket.

“See you in the mornin’, four-legged Chum.” Mr. Punch said.

“Mr. Punch, Dr. Halifax,” Marjani smiled. “If you won’t be needin’ me, I got some things that want doin’, this evening over to Mr. Fontanals.”

“I’m doing quite well.” Robert nodded. “We’ve already given Naasir the evening off.”

“I see.” Marjani nodded. “I done made sure one of Miss Rittenhouse’s folk’ll come and take your trays tonight. Now, are you gonna change Mr. Punch’s bandage later?”

“I will.” Robert said.

“After that, straight back in bed with you.” Marjani said sternly.

“Yes, ma’am.” Robert nodded.

“And, you, Mr. Punch. You keep that hand clean—no point in lettin’ it get diseased. And, maybe you oughta sleep in your own bed tonight like a proper gentleman ought to.”

Mr. Punch frowned. “Wanna stay here with me chum.”

Marjani shook her head. “Doctor, you try to talk some sense into this one, will ya?”

“I think it’s rather futile.” Robert smiled.

“Suit yourselves.” She grinned. “I’ll see ya both when the sun comes up.”

“Good night, Marjani.” Robert nodded.

“’Night!” Mr. Punch whooped.

Marjani laughed, shaking her head, as she carried the basket with Toby in it out of the room. She shut the door behind her.

Naasir met her in the passage.

“You ready for this?” She asked Naasir.

“I am prepared to do what is expected of me.” Naasir said plainly.

“Meet me at the stables in half an hour.” Marjani whispered. “Arthur’s there.”

Naasir nodded.

“You got what I tol’ ya to get?”

Naasir pulled a glass tube from his pocket. The tube contained a brilliant red powder.

“Good.” Marjani grinned. “That’s all we need.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-74? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Prepare Your Fall Wardrobe

Before we know it, cool weather will be upon us (thank God) and we can shed the short sleeves for sweaters and jackets.  If you’re anything like me, you’ve got two rotating wardrobes.  In Texas, it’s either hot or cold.  We really only have two discernable seasons, so it’s logical to have two sets of clothes.  To avoid a mad scramble on that first cool day, take a few minutes this evening to go through your winter wardrobe.  If you’ve got coats and jackets that need cleaning, take them to the dry cleaner this week so they’ll be ready when there’s a chill in the air.  Any steps you take now will save you a lot of time when all you want to do is be snuggly and warm.