Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: A Magnificent Fabergé Brooch, 1900

Fabergé, circa 1900
Possibly acquired by Queen Alexandra while
Princess of Wales
The Royal Collection
The Royal Family collected many, many brooches by Fabergé over the years. All of them were very carefully logged into the inventory of the Royal Collection—except one. This brooch with a large, bluish cabachon chalcedony set into a frame of green enamel leaves, rubies and rose-cut diamonds has no records and is not mentioned in any of the inventory lists.

The brooch’s reverse is engraved with the mark of Fabergé, and stylistically, it dates to circa 1900. However, no one is quite sure how it came into the Royal Collection. I’m always quick to point toward the greatest collector of them all, Mary of Teck. But, historians feel that this was the one brooch Mary didn’t get hold of first. Circumstantial evidence points to Queen Alexandra who probably bought this brooch as a little present for herself while she was the Princess of Wales. Obviously, she failed to mention it to anyone.

Painting of the Day: Brazilian Monkeys by Sir Edwin Landseer, 1842

Brazillian Monkeys
Sir Edwin Landseer
The Royal Collection
Commissioned by Queen Victoria
Monkeys! Monkeys smaller than a pineapple! How wonderful. Now, I have to say that I don’t have much occasion to see tiny monkeys. So, I find paintings such as this 1842 oil by the greatest depicter of animals, Sir Edwin Landseer, to be quite interesting. Imagine how it was received when it was first created. This is where I want to say, “its viewers must have gone ape.” But, I wouldn’t make such a cheap pun.

Though Landseer’s works included portraits, he was best known for his paintings of animals. He usually painted dogs and horses and other animals native to Britain, however, every so often, he’d have a chance to have some exotic sitters. I’m glad that he did. It would have been a shame is these little simians had been lost to the ages.

At the Music Hall: Keep the Home Fires Burning, 1914

Ivor Novello
Keep the Home Fires Burning,
While your hearts are yearning.
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
There's a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out
‘Til the boys come home.

Ivor Novello was one of the most popular composers, writers and actors of the early Twentieth Century. The song which launched the career of the brilliant Welshman was Keep The Home Fires Burning. This sentimental favorite with words by Lena Gilbert Ford was one of the most beloved songs of World War I and expressed the feelings of many British families whose lives had been ripped apart as their boys went to war.

Originally, the song was entitled, “’Til the Boys Come Home.” However, it was retitled with the second printing in 1915.

The Art of Play: A Doll’s Fan with Blue Birds, 1938

Dolls Fan with Blue Birds
Duvelleroy, France, 1938
Painted by Marie Laurencin
Part of a suite presented to Princesses Elizabeth
and Margaret
The Royal Collection
In 1938, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) took their first official State visit since the coronation in 1937 by visiting France. To commemorate their visit to Paris, a group of French couturiers and fashion designers banded together to create two magnificent dolls for Princesses Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret Rose. The dolls, called France and Marianne, came with elaborate wardrobes complete with highly-detailed miniature accessories and jewels. Among the collection were four hand fans—two of silk and two of ostrich feathers. This is one of the silk fans.

This fan—as with the other three—still retains its original presentation box which is marked with the name of its maker—Duvelleroy. The fan was hand-painted by Marie Laurencin with a pattern of blue birds.

The princesses didn’t get to play with the dolls right away. They were put on display in St. James Palace and admission was charged to see them. Proceeds went to aid of The Princess Elizabeth of York Hospital for Children and a French charity. Today, France and Marianne are part of the permanent exhibit at Windsor Castle where they overlook Queen Mary’s dolls’ house.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 205

Let’s go, then,” Mr. Punch said, climbing out of the bed and hurrying to the wardrobe.

“No.” Robert shook his head. “I don’t mean you. Cecil and I will go.”

“Chum,” Mr. Punch frowned, “You can’t just sit here and declare that we need to go to the cathedral—just out of the air like it fell into your mouth without you knowin’—and then tell me I can’t go with you.”

“You’re still as weak as…”

“As what, Chum?” Mr. Punch answered. “As a baby? Like me nephew? I gotta go. He needs me! He’s out in the cold somewhere. If anyone’s gonna find him, it’s me. Gotta be scared, he is. What must that place look like to him? Like some kind of monster’s castle.”

“I don’t even know why I think we should go to the cathedral,” Robert argued. “The thought just came to me. There’s no point in dragging you out into the cold night for a random idea that I’ve had.”

“It ain’t no random idea!” Mr. Punch said forcefully. “It’s Marjani, it is! You said yourself she followed Charles. It ain’t the first time she’s sent you a thought from there. You remember when you knew to go to the cathedral to find me when I were shot? Well, it was Marjani what let you know that.”

“And, maybe my mind is playing tricks on me.” Robert shook his head again.

“And, maybe it ain’t!” Punch said, putting on Julian’s pants. “Now, are you gonna help me get dressed or ain’t ya?”

Robert looked sternly at Mr. Punch.

“Coo!” Mr. Punch shouted. “Come on!”

“Very well,” Robert grunted, going to the wardrobe to fetch a shirt, waistcoat and coat for Mr. Punch. “However, Cecil is coming with us.”

“And leave Adrienne and Fuller here alone? What if Edward Cage comes back?”

“Edward.” Robert moaned. “I forgot about Edward. He’s got every door of this house being watched. “No doubt, his men will see us leave and follow us. We’ll never get out of here unnoticed.”

“Don’t be so sure, Chum.” Mr. Punch winked. “Let’s remember, I’m Mr. Punch. I beat the Devil, I did.”

Meanwhile, behind St. Louis Cathedral, Marie Laveau grunted as she sat on the ground next to Barbara and her child.

“We don’t have time for games, Miss Laveau,” Charles said quickly.

“Listen, Boy,” Marie grinned. “We got all the time in the world. You know, I like it here. See how pretty the cathedral looks. So much better than it used to. Do you think it’ll stay like this always? Do you think that in one hundred years, or two hundred, people will come to New Orleans and stand right here where we are and see the same view that we see right now?”

“What are you talking about?” Barbara groaned.

“Permanence, Girl.” Marie spat. “Permanence.”

“Permanence.” Barbara shook her head.

“Sure, Miss Allen.” Marie laughed. “Don’t it worry you?” She smiled. “It worries me. Permanence. What’s gonna happen when we’re gone? Who’s gonna keep the traditions alive? Who’s gonna carry on when we can’t no more?”

“Miss Laveau,” Charles began.

“Quiet, boy, I’m talkin’.” Marie chuckled.

“See, Girl, it falls on our children to keep us alive.” Marie nodded.

“And, I’m sure your children will ensure that your work lives forever.” Charles answered.

“Do you think?” Marie sighed. “I worry. Will folk remember ol’ Marie Laveau?”

“Who could forget you?” Barbara muttered.

“Your daughter,” Charles said. “She’s the spit and image of you. She’ll give you eternity.”

“Are folk gonna take a colored girl seriously?” Marie asked. “Boy, that ain’t the world we live in.” She smiled, “but folk’ll take a white gentleman seriously.” Marie narrowed her eyes at the baby in Barbara’s lap. “Oh, yes, they will.”

At that very moment, Marjani crept out from behind the bushes and made her presence known.

“Miss Allen,” Marjani said quickly. “You gotta walk away from this woman. Come with me and Charles. Come now.”

“And go into another kind of slavery?” Barbara growled.

“What do you know about slavery?” Marjani answered angrily.

“More than you realize.” Barbara said. “My shackles with Iolanthe were just as real as any that you may have worn!”

Marjani frowned. “Let your fine brother give this boy a chance at a real life.”

“This don’t concern you.” Marie stood up.

“Hush, you witch!” Marjani spat.

“Who you callin’ a witch?” Marie smiled. “Just lookin’ at ya, I can tell you’re the same as I.”

“Oh, no, Marie.” Marjani shook her head. “I ain’t.” She stepped closer. “I don’t give my power to the snakes and the beasts that slither in the mud. I don’t share my spirit with the dirt and the fire.”

“That’s why you ain’t got the power I got.” Marie laughed. “One thing I know ‘bout dirt, Girl. Dirt don’t burn!”

“But, evil does!” Marjani growled, reaching into the pocket of her apron. She withdrew a clear glass orb which was filled with blue liquid. “Miss Allen, Charles, stand back!”

Marjani raised her arm above her head and hurled the orb at Marie’s feet.

Marie Laveau screamed as the orb shattered.

The baby began to shriek as a blue vapor began to cloud the air around them.

Barbara gasped as blood trickled onto the stones of the courtyard.

Did you miss Chapters 1-204? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, March 28 for Chapter 206 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Keep it Brief

Life’s too short to waste it on unpleasant events and people. There’s no way to avoid the intrusions of unsavory elements into our lives. We’re always going to have contact with voices which make our skin crawl and situations which make us sweat. However, there’s no need to linger with them. Cut it short. Get out of there and go somewhere you can breath and feel at peace.

For as much as unpleasantness is aggressive, you can aggressively leave it behind.

Object of the Day: The Grim Monkey

This is the very first real painting I ever purchased. It’s not an antique, and, admittedly, it’s a little peculiar, but I liked it immediately. It has the sort of weird vibe of Seventeenth Century Flemish still life paintings which often included animals (usually dead) on a draped table with fruit.

Here, we have a grim monkey who looks rather concerned about something. He’s eating a persimmon while sitting on a table in a crimson-draped nook. All these many years later, the painting still appeals to me. I like its use of color and the sense of strange drama. Besides, how could you go wrong with a monkey?

Simian subjects were a popular subject matter of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century paintings. They were both exotic and attractive and provided the viewer with an opportunity to see a creature that they’d have little chance of seeing otherwise.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pets of the Belle Époque: “A Girl with Dogs” by Charles Burton Barber, 1893

Girl with Dogs
Charles Burton Barber, 1893
The Lady Lever Art Gallery
A popular subject matter of the late Nineteenth Century was the sentimental portrait of a child and his/her pets. Near the end of his life, painter Charles Burton Barber painted several such paintings, not so much out of a deep love for the subject, but because he knew they’d sell. And, sell they did.

Soap magnate Lord Leverhulme purchased this painting in 1901 for the purpose of using it in advertisements for Lever Brothers soap. The image of the little girl projected an innocent quality as she struggled to carry two puppies in her skirts while their nervous mother and sibling look on. As was often the case with Lord Leverhulme, he purchased the painting for business, but kept it for pleasure. It still resides in the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: The “Punch Coronation Number,” 1953

Founded in 1841, Punch Magazine took its name from our favorite puppet imp, Mr. Punch, and offered a satirical and upscale look at British society. Much like, Mr. Punch, however, Punch Magazine knew when to be respectful. Such was the case of the “Punch Coronation Number” which was dedicated to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953.

This is a fascinating item to peruse. The articles about the coronation, English history and tradition are fascinating. Equally delightful are all of the vintage ads. Some are downright reverential to Her Majesty while others are more light-hearted. All of them however are extremely patriotic. I’ll reproduce some of them for you below.

Peppered throughout the edition are dozens of the delightful illustrations for which the magazine was known. I have a favorite, of course—for obvious reasons. I adore this drawing of Mr. Punch and Toby as they await the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Enjoy these selected pages. I wish I could share the whole thing.

Friday Fun: Clive Chandler’s Punch and Judy Show

Clive Chandler and his Mr. Punch
Here’s some more fun via my friends at The Punch & Judy Fellowship. Here, we see a portion of Clive Chandler’s exceptional Punch & Judy Show as our Mr. Punch shows us the correct way to ride a horse.

What I find most exciting about this clip—aside from Mr. Punch’s utter jubilance—is the interaction of the audience who seems quite engaged.

This clip was filmed by another Punch & Judy man, the talented Chris van der Craats who not only performs under the name of Professor Whatsit, but also makes and sells gorgeous puppets which would be the envy of any Punch enthusiast.

Antique Image of the Day: The Coronation of 1953

Queen Elizabeth II enters Westminster
Abbey in 1953 on the day of
her coronation.
The Royal Collection
Upon the death of her father, King George VI, a young Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II. She was faced with a daunting journey as she took her place on the throne while still processing the passing of both her father and her grandmother, Queen Mary (of Teck).

The coronation was filled with tradition. This image by an unknown photographer shows the new Queen as she entered Westminster Abbey—radiant in her Parliamentary Robes.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 204

Corliss Cage shifted uncomfortably in her chair. Tapping her fingernails on the wooden arm of the chair, she sighed, trying to avoid the eyes of the woman who sat across from her.

“My husband should be along shortly,” Corliss said breathlessly. Her face turned pink as she considered her situation. She trembled slightly as she tried to process the many emotions which coursed through her veins like a hot acid—anger, fear, despondency, outrage, embarrassment. She’d never have thought she’d have such a person in her home—never! What would people think? How could Edward have done this to her?

“I know what you’re thinkin’, Mrs. Cage,” Iolanthe Evangeline smiled. “And, I don’t want you thinkin’ that I don’t. I know you’d rather eat your own hair than have me in your house. I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want me either.”

Corliss coughed, unsure of what to say. She tapped her nails on the chair again. “My husband should be along shortly.” She repeated.

“I know that the last thing a lady like you would want,” Iolanthe continued, keenly aware that she was making Corliss uncomfortable, and frankly, enjoying it, “is comfort from the likes of me. What do I know ‘bout comforting a lady? My comfort is all for men. I’ve comforted a lot of men. Many of your fine, high-tone neighbors, Mrs. Cage.”

Corliss’ eyes widened as she sputtered.

“Now, now,” Iolanthe laughed. “I don’t want you thinkin’ I don’t understand what you’re enduring. I do. I’m a mother myself.”

Corliss nodded.

“My little boy—he’s different. He couldn’t’ stay with me. So, I know what’s goin’ on in your heart. It’s a terrible thing to be separated from your child. But, I aim to help you. That’s why your husband sent for me.”

Corliss’ anger got the better of her. “I don’t see how you could possibly help.”

“Don’t you know?” Iolanthe chuckled. “I’m capable of many things, Mrs. Cage.”

“I have no doubt of that.” Corliss muttered.

“I got you the boy in the first place, didn’t I?” Iolanthe winked.

Corliss nodded stiffly.

“So, just know that I’ll get him back.” Iolanthe smirked.

Mrs. Cage rose eagerly when her husband entered the room. She staggered a bit when she saw that Edward was followed by Ulrika Rittenhouse.

Both Ulrika and Iolanthe scowled upon seeing one another.

Edward ignored all of their emotions and grunted at Iolanthe. “Miss Evangeline, your girl has stolen my child.”

“She’s not my girl anymore.” Iolanthe answered. “She’s Marie Laveau’s girl now.”

“Dear God!” Corliss gasped. “Marie Laveau!”

“Silence!” Edward barked. Corliss quickly retreated back to her chair.

“Don’t misunderstand me, Iolanthe.” Edward snarled. “I demand that you find my son.”

“You demand?” Iolanthe laughed heartily. “You demand. I don’t think you’re in any position to make demands of me.”

“Am I not?” Edward growled.

“Sit down, Edward,” Iolanthe chuckled. “I’ll help you.”

At that very moment, Marie Laveau was also laughing. “You’re not a Lady no more, Barbara Allen. You can’t give me orders and tell me what I done saw and what I didn’t.”

“Please,” Barbara pleaded, holding the child close to her bosom. “I beg you. You’re a mother. You know what I’m feeling.”

“I’m a mother, for sure.” Marie smiled. “I’m a lot of things. But, Girl, I never stole any babies.”

“He’s mine!” Barbara cried.

“Miss Laveau,” Charles began.

“Miss Laveau? Well, ain’t we nice and refined, Mr. Van Eyck?” Marie winked. “Now, why are you showin’ me such deference?”

“I’m showing you kindness, not deference,” Charles answered softly.

“I ain’t used to it.” Marie smiled.

“I believe that we should all treat one another with kindness.” Charles responded.

“You just want me to let your little girl go and pretend I never saw her with Edward Cage’s son.” Marie nodded.

“The longer we wait, the more dangerous it becomes.” Charles said, thinking of Mr. Punch and the promise he had made to return the child to Punch and Robert. “You never know who is watching.”

Little did Marie know, but someone was indeed watching. From the hedgerow, Marjani peered at the scene which was unfolding.

Marjani closed her eyes and concentrated.

Suddenly, at their house on Royal Street, Robert perked up his head.

“What is it, Chum?” Mr. Punch asked.

“We need to go to the cathedral.” Robert muttered.

Did you miss Chapters 1-203? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Don’t Take Everything for Granted

We’re usually so wrapped up in our daily activities that we don’t pay much attention to the people and things that are always there. We don’t miss them until they’re gone. One thing that we should remember is that the lifestyle upon which we rely also needs nurturing.

Today, take stock of the unflappable things in your life. Remember to enjoy your home, your family, your pets, your possessions. We’re fortunate to have them and we should never take them for granted.

Object of the Day: A Vintage New Haven Miniature Tambour Clock

The New Haven Clock Company was founded in 1853 by Hiram Camp, a longtime clock-maker. The company produced a good many of American’s clocks for decades. They specialized in simple wooden case clocks. No doubt, many an American home kept its pace by a New Haven clock.

In the 1920’s, the New Haven Clock Company began producing what they called, “novelty clocks.” These were scaled-down versions of their full-size timepieces which were quickly embraced by the public for the miniature size and portability. These clocks featured a “wind-up” mechanism with a built-in key.

This miniaturized tambour clock with its characteristic “humpback” shape features a deep, wooden case and a paper face which is marked, “New Haven U.S.A.” I would place this clock as having been made in the 1930’s.

I’ve had this clock since I was a child. It was in my room when I was growing up and I brought it with me later in life. It doesn’t work anymore, but it’s terribly cute and still looks quite handsome.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Choir Practice

“God save our gracious Queen, long live our noble Queen…hey, this is the same as ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.’” 

Image: May Morning on Magdalen Tower, William Holman Hunt, 1888-1890, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool.

Painting of the Day: George Romney’s “Sarah Rodbard,” 1784

Sarah Rodbard
George Romney, 1784
The Lady Lever Art Gallery
In the late Eighteenth Century, George Romney was considered the most fashionable of the popular portrait painters. Titled and wealthy individuals clamored to sit for the painter whose popularity came from his ability to create elegant compositions without presenting the subject in an overtly formal manner. His reliance on casual poses and restrained color offered the look of the kind of relaxed elegance which was envied by those in the upper-class who never wanted to appear to be trying too hard.

Here, we see Romney’s portrait of a well-heeled young lady named Sarah Rodbard. Though not titled, she traveled among important circles. Painted at the age of nineteen, she radiates youthful charm and a lovely fashion sense. Even her adorable dog seems at ease as he poses next to his mistress. She looks at us as if to say, “I’m just biding my time in this garden with my dog. I hope you don’t mind.” She then entreats us to look at her shoes. Saucy!

Mastery of Design: Diamond Ring with Cameos of George II and Caroline of Ansbach

Diamond Ring with Cameos of George II
and Caroline of Ansbach
Onyx Cameos: c. 1730
Mouting: Early Nineteenth Century
Gold, Silver, enamel, twenty-two European Cut
The Royal Collection
Two large European Cut diamonds anchor frames of twenty smaller diamonds which surround onyx cameos of the profiles of King George II and Caroline of Ansbach. On the reverse, inscribed on a field of blue enamel is the garter motto: HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE (Evil to him who evil thinks).

The delicate onyx cameos were created in England around 1730 before the death of Caroline. In the early Nineteenth Century, they were mounted in this ring which was presented to the Prince of Wales (who would later become King Edward VII). Upon the death of Edward VII, his wife, Queen Alexandra, presented this magnificent ring to King George V and Mary of Teck.

Unfolding Pictures: Queen Alexandra’s Photographic Fan, 1871

Photographic Fan
Wooden sticks and guards, mother-of-pearl and silver pin
Possibly decorated by Princess Alice.
The Royal Collection
This unusual fan was presented to Queen Alexandra (while still Princess of Wales) in 1871, on the event of her thirty-seventh birthday. Though the donor of the gift is unrecorded, many suggest that the fan was a gift from Princess Alice—Queen Victoria’s third child—as a hastily-made gift for her sister-in-law.
Alexandra’s thirty-seventh birthday was not a happy one. Her husband, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) was terribly ill with Typhoid fever and was not expected to live. The entire family gathered by his bedside and Alexandra’s birthday was all but forgotten. Later, when Edward recovered, the family decided to celebrate Alexandra’s birthday. Princess Alice, who was quite crafty and artistic, had, in her possession, a collection of plain brisé fans which had been imported from Austria for the purposes of being decorated later. The fans featured wooden sticks with mother-of-pearl details. Though its’ not certainty, it’s believed that Princess Alice decorated this fan herself with photographs from her own collection of images of Alexandra and Edward’s children

The fan features painted swags of garland which spell out the name, “Alexandra” and the guard is inscribed, “Many happy returns of the day, Dec. 1, 1871.” The painting and application of the photographs is rather sloppy. If Princess Alice did, in fact, assemble this piece, she clearly did so in a hurry as her work was usually crisp and unparalleled.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 203

Mr. Punch paced slowly and deliberately in front of the mantel in his room.

“You’re going to have to get back in bed, you know.” Robert sighed.

“Can’t.” Mr. Punch grunted. “I got too much in me head.” He paused. “Funny, isn’t it? Me having somethin’ in me head where there weren’t nothin’.”

“You’ve always had thoughts, Mr. Punch. You were never just a puppet.” Robert smiled.

“But, I was. I weren’t nothin’ ‘til me master made me somethin’ more than I was. I owe him the thoughts in me head. I owe him lots.”

“Including raising his nephew?”

Mr. Punch chuckled. “I see you’ve got me figured out.”

“As best as anyone could.” Robert nodded.

“Sure, you’re spot on.” Punch shrugged. “I owe me master an heir. What’s more I owe it to him to take better care of that baby than I did of me master himself.”

“Whatever do you mean?” Robert asked. “From within him, you’ve done more to protect and preserve Julian than anyone outside of the two of you.”

“’Cept for you.” Mr. Punch sighed. “Listen, I ‘preciate you sayin’ so, but I didn’t do enough for Julian. So much happened to him what could have been avoided. All I could do was to keep him from rememberin’ it all. But, even that’s been ruined now. He’s rememberin’ and he’s sure to learn more.”

“And, he should.” Robert said. “He’s grown and changed. He’s ready to face the past so that he—and you—can have a strong, healthful life.”

“And so should that child.” Mr. Punch mumbled. “He ain’t gonna suffer the way Julian did.”

“No.” Robert shook his head slowly.

“But, see, with all three of us—you, me and Julian—looking after the boy, he’s gonna have no pain nor no worries what will make him afraid of life.”

“You can’t shield someone from all pain, “ Robert replied gently. “It’s not possible. Nor is it right. Pain is part of life. Without it, we’d never know true joy.”

“I ‘spose.” Mr. Punch replied thoughtfully. “But, there’s a difference between pain and tragedy, there is.”

“True.” Robert nodded.

“So, have you thought all of this out?” Robert wondered.

“As best I can. I figure we’ll take the boy to London. We can live at me master’s house in Belgravia for a spell. When things calm down with Edward Cage, we can all go back to Fallbridge Hall and make it our own. We can show the lad all what’s gonna be his one day and teach him what it means to be called, ‘Your Grace.’ He’ll live the life me master shoulda lived.”

“And, won’t people question from where the child came?”

“So what if they do?” Mr. Punch shrugged again. “Let ‘em question. Ain’t nothin’ they can do ‘bout it. We’ll just tell ‘em that we found the child in America and made him my ward. I never want him to know his parentage.”

“You’d deny him the right to know that he has Molliner blood in his veins?”

“Who cares what blood runs in his body? He’ll be a Molliner because he was raised as such. What’s more, he’ll inherit my title—me master’s title, I mean—and I’ll make sure he’s the kind of Duke of Fallbridge what hasn’t been in years and years. The kind of man what looks after the people. The kind of man what’s kind and supportive and looks after our history and our present. Better still, he’ll have your influence. He’ll learn to be gentle, but strong and what it means to take care of those ‘round him.”

“I’ll try my best.” Robert smiled. “I never thought of myself as the paternal sort. Having a child is not something I ever fancied.”

“Me neither.” Mr. Punch said. “But, I never ‘xpected none of this. So, you learn ‘bout it as you go.”

“Mr. Punch with a baby,” Robert chuckled. “Who would have thought?”

“Not I. Didn’t even like babies ‘til I met Fuller. But, what do I know? Right? Only baby I ever knew was one made of wood.”

Robert laughed.

Punch began pacing again. “Course, none o’ this will happen if Charles don’t find them.”

“He’ll find them.” Robert answered. “I know he will. Furthermore, Marjani…” He stopped.

“Marjani what?”

“Marjani told me that Charles would find them. I never believed it until I met her—that someone could have a sense of what might happen before it does, but somehow, I trust her instincts. It doesn’t make perfect sense, but she’s not been mistaken yet.”

“That comforts me.” Mr. Punch nodded, walking over to the bed and sitting on the edge of it.

“In fact, she’s followed Charles.”

“Good to know. He may need her help.” Punch said.

“Though he may not realize it.” Robert sighed.

Meanwhile, behind St. Louis Cathedral, Barbara Allen sat on the ground with her child on her lap. Despite the cold night wind, she was perspiring and her wig had become itchy, irritating her forehead and neck. She tried to remain unflappable for the sake of the child who was clearly confused—and hungry.

She could tell that the baby was becoming fussy and though she knew nothing about children, her maternal instincts told Barbara that her child wanted food.

“I have nothing for you, Colin.” Barbara whispered. “Not yet, but soon.”

Barbara heard footsteps on the path and drew the baby closer to herself. She whispered a short prayer and looked up.

“Oh!” Barbara gasped. “Thank God! I prayed you would come!”

“You knew that I would.” Charles whispered.

“You’re coming with us?” Barbara asked.

“Barbara,” Charles began.

“No.” Barbara shook her head. Not you, too. I can’t believe that you’d ask me to give up my child.”

“It’s for the best.” Charles smiled. “His Grace and Dr. Halifax can give him a good home. No one will question it. Meanwhile, you’d always be living in secret, flitting from one place to another. What kind of life is that? For either of you?”

“He’s my child.” Barbara replied.

“Yes, he is. And, that’s all the more reason to ensure he lives that best possible life. Barbara, I know what it’s like to always be running. Is that what you wish for your boy? Is that what he deserves?”

“He deserves to be with his mother!” Barbara spat. “If I thought he should be without me, I’d have left him with Edward Cage!”

“Isn’t that interesting?” a woman said deeply from the shadows.

Barbara gasped—thinking that the voice was that of Iolanthe. She was almost relieved to see that it belonged to Marie Laveau—almost relieved.

“Marie,” Barbara said quickly.

“What are you about?” Marie smiled.

“Please, Marie,” Barbara said. “Leave. Put this from your mind. You never saw us here.”

“Now, I wish that were true.” Marie chuckled. “But, it ain’t. Don’t I got enough troubles without you stealin’ babies from one of my best customers?”

“A child belongs with his mother,” Barbara said.

“Is that what you think?” Maries asked. She looked to Charles, “Mr. Van Eyck, do you think so?”

“I think a child belongs in the situation which will give him the best life.” Charles responded nervously.

“I can’t argue that,” Marie grinned. “That’s why I’m gonna give it to him.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-202? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Repurpose Something Exceptional

As a longtime collector of old and antique items, I’m a firm believer of recognizing the beauty of existing objects. Sometimes, older items are more attractive and better constructed than new ones straight from the factory.

Styles change, however, and often, an older object may not fit into your décor. That doesn’t mean that it’s not still a good piece. Take, for example, the lamps mentioned in the post below. The addition of new shades in a more current style and some jazzy finials made all the difference. Now, these lamps, which are almost as old as I am, have a new life and will survive another thirty years or more. One day, some other fellow like me will find these lamps in an antique store and really appreciate them because we’ve taken the time to preserve them.

So, this week, take a look at the stuff you’ve got tucked away in your attic or storage space. Perhaps you’ve got some things that you love, but don’t fit into your decorating plan as they are. You can always find a way to repurpose an item. Clean it up and give it a new life. Maybe it won’t be used for the purpose for which it was originally intended; maybe it will get some kind of upgrade. But, you’ll be preserving it and making sure that one day, someone else will be able to love it just as much as you do.

Objects of the Day: A Pair of Crystal Lamps

For years, I would walk into my bedroom and think, “I hate those lamps.” When I bought this house, I purchased a pair of inexpensive lamps for the bedroom with the intention of replacing them when I found something I liked. Over eight years later, I still had the offending fixtures and couldn’t find a pair of lamps that I thought were truly perfect.

Then, my mother remembered a set of crystal lamps that she and my father had purchased over thirty years ago, but hadn’t used in a very long time. The shades were tattered with age, but the lamps themselves were perfect. Shimmering crystal urns with subtle gold-tone bases never go out of style, and they had the perfect look for my house.

A pair of new shades of cerulean blue embroidered with a pattern of brown quatrefoils was the perfect upgrade for these classically-styled lamps. The addition of sparkling crystal finials completed the look.

Now, I walk into my bedroom and think, “Wow. I love those lamps.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Precious Time: Prince Albert’s Birthday Watch, 1859

Gold Case Watch
Made for Prince Albert, 1859
Aubert & Klaftenberger
The Royal Collection

The firm of Aubert & Klaftenberger was the favorite clock and watchmaker of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. For as much as Albert loved beautiful things, there was one trait he valued all the more—accuracy. Aubert & Klaftenberger, in the Prince’s estimation, afforded more accuracy in their timepieces than anyone else.

For her husband’s birthday in 1859, Victoria asked the firm to create a simple, elegant and scientifically nifty watch. The result was this understated piece with a turned 18 karat gold case and self-winding capability. It was quite a marvel of clockwork and gave the Prince the precision and reliability that he so cherished.

Just to make sure it was extra-special, the watch was engraved: “To Dearest Albert, from his ever devoted Victoria R, Aug 26th 1859.”

Unusual Artifacts: A Truly Royal Commemorative Cup, 1937

Two-Handled Cup to Commemorate the
Coronation of King George VI, 1937
Royal Albert China
The Royal Collection
It seems I’m not the only person to collect Royal commemorative china objects. Even members of the Royal Family have collected a few over the decades. This very special commemorative cup was created to celebrate the coronation of King George VI on May 12, 1937, and bears a portrait of “Bertie” with his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughters, Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret.

The image is based on a photograph taken of the Royal Family on November 7, 1934. This cup was created for King George VI by the master china-makers at Royal Albert, and presented to him as a coronation gift.

Sculpture of the Day: “Pandora,” by John Gibson, 1856

I have represented Pandora as described by Hesiod, and with the fatal box in her hand, drooping her head in deep thought; her eyes are turned a little from the box, whilst her hand is ready to raise the lid. The figure is still and motionless, but the mind is in full activity, labouring under the harassing feelings of intense curiosity, fear and perplexity. Her thoughts have dwelled too long upon the box. Pandora is already lost – we are sufferers, but Hope did not escape with the veil brood, she was shut in, and remains to the last with us.  --John Gibson

John Gibson, 1856
The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool

In 1856, the Duke of Wellington approached sculptor John Gibson—upon being heartily impressed by an exhibit of the artist’s work—about purchasing a painted or “tinted” figure of Venus which had been part of the exhibition. Venus had already been promised to another patron, so the Duke of Wellington suggested that Gibson create a figure of Pandora that was also “tinted.”

Gibson slaved over the large white marble statue, depicting the exact moment when Pandora decides to open her fabled box. The Duke, however, wasn’t terribly thrilled with the drama of Gibson’s approach and declined on purchasing the marble which had already been painted with wax colors. Luckily for Gibson, the figure appealed to Lady Marian Alford who quickly purchased the piece.

Today, most of the color has been lost to time and wear. However, the mastery of Gibson’s sculpture shines through.

In Memoriam: Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011

Today, the world lost Elizabeth Taylor at the age of 79. She took with her, the last gasp of “Golden Age Hollywood.” Her life was a source of fascination for many. She’s made in indelible mark on world culture through her talent, her fashion sense, her tumultuous lifestyle and her vast humanitarian work.

I like to think that right now, she’s enjoying a rousing chat with Monty over gimlets. I’m sure they have much to discuss.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 202

Barbara Allen clutched her baby to her breast as she ran. She worried that the child would not have enough air. She’d covered him with her cloak so he’d not be noticed as she hurried, panting, through the streets of New Orleans. Her heart raced and she was gripped in panic, but couldn’t help feel a bit proud of herself for what she considered her extreme bravery. Creeping out of the attic cupboard and down the back stairs while Edward Cage screamed and bellowed—just inches away from her—was a courageous, if not foolish, decision.

“Not much longer, Colin,” Barbara cooed softly to the hidden child. She could feel the baby squirming in her arms—most likely confused and wondering why he’d been ripped away from a warm and comfortable house, not once, but twice in the same day.

When she reached Marie Laveau’s house, she approached it cautiously. She knew that at that time of the evening, Marie was out paying calls to the wealthy women in the Garden District. She just hoped that the other occupants of the house—Marie’s so-called family—were otherwise occupied with one of their strange endeavors.

Barbara slipped cautiously into the rear of the dirty building and was relieved to find the house quiet and empty. She quickly made her way up to the corner she’d been assigned and grabbed her satchel. Gently placing the baby on the mattress, she hoped it would not begin to cry and attract attention to them. Thankfully, the baby gurgled softly, just happy not to be bouncing around in the cold air.

From her satchel, Barbara withdrew the blonde wig she’d worn when she first went to Marionneaux as Ulrika Rittenhouse’s maid. Without aid of a mirror, she arranged the wig on her head, using her fingers to feel around her hairline, hopefully ensuring that her own dark tresses were decently contained.

“I will return,” She whispered to the baby.

Slipping into the corridor, she peered around a corner and looked into Marie’s room to make sure that it was empty. As quickly as she could, she snatched a brightly-colored shawl, dripping with silk fringe, from Marie’s bed and threw it across her shoulders.

“This will have to do,” She muttered, hurrying back to her child. Placing the handle of her satchel on the crook of her arm, she lifted the child and, again, covered him with her cloak. The baby protested by kicking at her, but he soon quieted down.

“We’re off, then,” Barbara mumbled. “Jackson Square. Oh, I do hope he comes…”

With that, Barbara rushed from Marie’s house.

Little did she know that Marie Laveau saw her flee down the street—her stolen shawl fluttering the evening wind.

“What’s that girl up to now?” Marie grinned as she followed.

Meanwhile, Robert and Cecil were searching the attic with Marjani and Charles while Adrienne, Meridian and Mr. Punch remained in the nursery.

“There’s not a trace of her.” Robert grumbled.

“Brazen thing—to sneak out with Edward and Ulrika ranting in the next room.” Cecil spat.

“Charles, can you imagine where she’s gone?” Robert asked.

“I’d guess that she’s on her way to the docks, Sir.” Charles answered.

“Why would she do this?” Cecil grunted. “We had everything all nicely sorted out.”

“Sure she panicked, Sir. She’s not thinking too clearly.” Charles said softly.

“I should say not.” Cecil sighed. “We’d best go tell Mr. Punch and Adrienne.”

When the men entered the nursery, Mr. Punch stood quickly, losing his balance slightly as he did. He gripped the back of a chair to steady himself.

“Well?” He croaked.

“She’s escaped.” Robert replied gently.

“Perhaps it’s for the best.” Adrienne said reassuringly.

“It ain’t no such thing!” Mr. Punch answered. “If you’ll pardon me bein’ objectionable.”

“I understand, dear Punch.” Adrienne replied.

“Listen, Chums, I ain’t lettin’ Barbara have that child. I won’t let her do to him what she done to herself, I won’t.”

“What can we do?” Cecil asked. “She clearly wants to be independent.”

“Don’t care what she wants,” Mr. Punch said firmly. We’re gonna find her.”

“Mr. Punch, you can’t leave the house. You’re still recovering.” Robert said pleadingly.

“Maybe I can. Maybe I can’t. But, Charles certainly can!” Mr. Punch said.

“Me, Sir?” Charles asked.

“She trusts you.” Mr. Punch nodded. “Now, go and find her.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-201? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Decide for the Common Good

King George VI
The Royal Collection
Much like King George VI, very often, we’re put in unexpected positions wherein we’ve got to carry out actions that frighten us or that we simply don’t want to do. “Bertie” was quite content with his life as it was, and the prospect of being King George VI was a rather daunting one. Still, he carried on, because he knew that what he was doing was for the benefit of his people.

Now, the rest of us don’t have to worry about ruling an empire per se. However, each of us is in control of our own little realm. Sometimes, we have to make decisions based on what’s practical and necessary as opposed to what feels good or comfortable. With these decisions often comes immediate disappointment. But, that disappointment is always short-lived when you consider the overall benefits of your decision.

When you consider what’s best for your empire, even the hardest decisions have clear answers.

Object of the Day: A Souvenir of the Coronation That Never Happened, Edward VIII

King George V wasn’t too keen on the idea of his eldest son, known as “David” to the family, becoming king after his death. He and his Queen, Mary of Teck, both thought that David was too flighty and wild to be a good monarch. George V hoped that his son, “Bertie” would one day be king, but wasn’t quite sure how that would come to pass.

When George V died, David was next in line for the throne. He styled himself King Edward VIII and got about to business. Actually, he got about to keeping company with Wallis Simpson. That was the problem. Could this questionable divorcee possibly be the Queen Consort? Everyone had an opinion—especially Edward VIII.

In November of 1936, King Edward VIII (who had only been “King” since January) called the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, to Buckingham Palace to express his desire to marry Wallis Simpson (when her divorce was final, of course). Baldwin informed the King that the British people would never accept the marriage and advised him to give up his foolish notions. Edward stated that if he couldn’t marry Mrs. Simpson, he would abdicate. Edward was given three choices: he could give up Mrs. Simpson, abdicate, or marry without the minister’s consent. He made his decision.

On the evening of December 11, 1936, King Edward VIII made his final broadcast as King. Addressing his people, he stated, "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love."

With his abdication, “Bertie” would become King—as George V wished. Bertie, unprepared for the throne and not really wanting to be king in the first place, styled himself as King George VI. This made his daughter, Elizabeth, the next in line for the throne. And, we all know how that worked out.

Since coronation plans for Edward VIII were already underway and since the British are a practical people, they kept the same coronation date for George VI. King George VI and his consort, Elizabeth (the Queen Mum), were crowned on May 12, 1937.

As was the case with any coronation, a variety of commemorative souvenirs had already been produced with the likeness of King Edward VIII. The majority of these were scrapped as new merchandise was manufactured with the faces of George VI and Elizabeth. Some of these pieces of Edward VIII memorabilia still survive, but they’re rare. Here’s one!

I find this mug, and its brother which also bears the grim face of Edward VIII, very amusing. I display it next to a commemorative mug of George V and Mary of Teck and the coronation mug of George VI and Queen Elizabeth which shows the same coronation date. To me, it’s a reminder that one should always be prepared for change.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Film of the Week: Harriet Craig, 1950

There are other people besides Joan Crawford in this 1950 Columbia Pictures film based on the play of the same name by George Kelly. Really, there are. But, Crawford dominates the entire picture and holds it in her tiny, polished claw. And, she should. Director Vincent Sherman was correct in letting Miss Crawford swagger and growl her way through the picture. It is, after all about a domineering woman with control issues and a lot of resentment. If you believe everything you read, then, you might think the picture was about Crawford herself.

Harriet Craig is a clinging, cold, manipulative, jealous, petty, neat-freak with a penchant for lying and keeping everything looking perfect. Hmmm… Regardless of any resemblance to the present-day image of Miss Crawford, Harriet Craig is a retelling of a story that had been around for quite some time. Kelly’s play was first produced in 1925 and spawned two film versions—one silent, in 1928, the other, in 1936 starring Rosalind Russell.

This was the period where Crawford had finally abandoned her shop-girl-makes-good persona for the broad-shouldered, hard woman roles which allowed her to continue her career well into her Pepsi Cola days. This wasn’t her first time at the rodeo.

Miss Crawford is perfectly steely and alternately vulnerable in the part as Harriet trounces through the lives of those around her and generally makes existence unbearable for her man’s man husband (played by Wendell Corey). They are joined by Lucile Watson, K.T. Stevens, Allyn Joslyn (a decade before he was driven to wild fits by The Addams Family) and the always-old Ellen Corby who doesn’t look as old as she did as “Grandma Walton,” but has the eternal, “frail, old lady vibe.”

Yes, it’s more than a little melodramatic. Yes, there’s scenery chewing. In fact, there’s some scenery-breaking. But, what do you expect from a Joan Crawford movie from 1950? That’s part of the appeal. You’ll get wasp-waisted, broad-shouldered, overly-lipsticked, severe-hairdo Joan at her very best as she weaves her way around some decent actors and some exceptionally ugly lampshades.

A good time will be had by all—except possibly for Harriet. But, she’s used to it.

Humanitarian of the Week: Geraldine James, OBE

Geraldine James’ extraordinary talent has led her across many media. She has shared her great skills as an actress with audiences via the stage, television and film, and has created a vast array of characters which run the gamut from high drama to camp.

James was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire. Her father was a cardiologist who divorced James’ mother when the girl was fourteen. Miss James’ mother, an alcoholic, was often gripped by her addiction and would be confined to her bed for extended periods of time. James described her childhood as “miserable. My mother was an alcoholic, in and out of hospital my entire childhood. My father, a doctor, divorced her when I was 14. My brother and sister and I had no one to turn to, and we never spoke about it. I couldn't tell anyone, 'It's Christmas Day. Mummy's in bed and no one's cooked us dinner.' We thought we were freaks. When you're a child, you blame yourself and think you're a bad person because Mummy is in bed crying and won't get up.”

Despite her trying upbringing, James excelled in her studies and was educated at Drama Centre London. In the late 1970’s and 1980’s, James made several memorable, high-profile television appearances. During this period, she also had featured parts in films such as Gandhi and The Tall Guy.

Miss James’ range is apparent. The same woman who played opposite Dustin Hoffman in the Broadway and West End productions of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is also the woman who played Harvey Pincher’s mother in Little Britain. Recent film appearances include the two newest Sherlock Holmes movies, Alice in Wonderland, Made in Dagenham, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the new version of Arthur.

In addition to her busy career, Geraldine James is an active patron of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) which offers assistance and counseling to people who grew up in conditions similar to those in which Miss James was raised. She said, the NACOA “offers a lifeline to children like me. Mummy was finally saved by Alcoholics Anonymous and spent the last ten years of her life sober. Having my mother back was fantastic.

For her exceptional talent and her enormous giving sprit, Geraldine James is our “Humanitarian of the Week.”

The Belle Époque Today: “Dare to Wear,” Glass Dresses by Diana Dias-Leão

The Walker Art Gallery
Fourteen dangerous dresses constructed of glass and two lethal barbed-wire corsets are the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England. The collection, created by Diana Dias-Leão, chronicles the artist’s experiences in the fashion industry as well as showcases her remarkable glass-making prowess.

More so sculpture than couture, the dresses represent Miss Dias-Leão’s belief that the attitudes of those in the fashion industry have put more of an emphasis on appearance than substance. With this collection of shimmering glass gowns, she hopes to encourage people to look past the trappings of fashion and view it as simply a covering for what’s really important.

This unique and attractive collection is on display at the Walker Art Gallery through the end of September. Admission is free; so, if you’re in the Liverpool area, you should definitely pay a visit.

Dare to Wear - About the artist from National Museums Liverpool on Vimeo.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: A Gothic Revival Display Cabinet, 1844

Display Cabinet
and Stand
French, 1844
Ebony, Bronze,
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were keen aficionados of a variety of architectural styles. One of their favorites was the Gothic Revival and they collected several examples of furnishings in this style during their marriage.

This ebony, bronze and glass display stand with figures representing Architecture, History, Sculpture and Numismatics was one of two which were purchased as monumental cabinets for the Royal Library at Windsor. The other piece actually belonged to King Louis Philippe of France. Sadly, that display stand no longer survives.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 201

Hullo, Sir.” Columbia smiled at Edward Cage.

“Good evening, little girl.” Edward replied, forcing himself to be pleasant. “You say you want to play with the ‘boys’? Which boys do you mean?”

“Uncle Punch and Uncle Robert,” Columbia answered.

“Uncle Punch and Uncle Robert,” Edward grumbled. He glared at Mr. Punch. “So, Your Grace, now you’ve got your servants’ children calling you by that fool name?”

Mr. Punch nodded, speaking as Julian, “Mr. Cage, it’s a term of affection. Something, I’m sure that you’d not understand.”

“That’s fine, Columbia.” Marjani said quickly. “His Grace and Dr. Halifax will join you downstairs when the big people are through with their talking.”

Columbia nodded.

“Wish Mr. Cage and Miss Rittenhouse a good evening.” Marjani said softly.

“Good evening,” Columbia curtsied. She smiled at Ulrika. “Your hair is the color of fire.”

“Fire burns, little girl.” Ulrika cooed.

“I ‘spose it does.” Columbia shrugged. “Hope it don’t hurt your head.” With that, Columbia ran off to go play with Toby.

“Edward,” Cecil spoke up. “As you can see, your son is not here.”

“I see nothing of the sort.” Edward spat.

“Mr. Cage, do you really think His Grace would put himself out to do anything to assist his sister?” Robert asked.

“You’re asking me to predict the actions of a man who fancies that he’s some sort of incarnation of a wooden-headed puppet?”

“In my case,” Punch smiled, still speaking in Julian’s voice. “I was partly papier mache. You see, I was not a regulation Mr. Punch, but rather one created for a child.”

“You see?” Edward bellowed. “He’s mad. There’s no telling what he’d do.”

“You can tear the house apart.” Robert said, “but you won’t find that child here.”

“This isn’t over.” Edward said.

“You’re not going to leave, really?” Ulrika gasped. “You must make them pay for what they’ve done.”

“Dwelling here, Ulrika, isn’t going to bring Holt back to me. These people aren’t going to cooperate.” Mr. Cage snorted.

“Edward!” Ulrika argued.

“Quiet, you.” Edward growled.

“We wish you all the best of luck in finding what you seek.” Adrienne said.

“And, I wish you the best of luck, Mrs. Halifax.” Edward snarled.

“Whatever do you mean?” Adrienne asked.

“I hope you all enjoy being watched.” Edward grinned. “I will make sure that no one exits or enters this house without my knowing. I will know whenever a candle is lit in any room. I will monitor every breath you take. Until I find my son, I will study every blink of your eyes.”

“Do as you wish, Edward, but please leave my home,” Cecil answered.

“No, this isn’t over,” Edward repeated. “You’ve made a terrible enemy in me.”

“Everyone is your enemy.” Cecil shook his head. “Perhaps that’s why your child has been taken from you. You’d do better to focus on the people who’d do you harm than those who simply wish to be left alone.”

“Come, Ulrika!” Edward groaned.

“Edward, really.” Ulrika whispered.

“Come!” Edward spat. He laughed, looking at each face in the room, “I’ll be seeing you.”

With that, Edward left, followed by a reluctant Ulrika Rittenhouse.

“I’ll show them out,” Marjani volunteered.

“Thank you, Marjani.” Adrienne nodded.

Everyone in the nursery stood perfectly still until Marjani returned.

“They left,” Marjani said several moments later when she came back. “But, they ain’t far.”

“This is too much,” Cecil barked.

“You were brilliant, my dear.” Adrienne said, putting her head on her husband’s shoulder.

“I’m so terrible sorry ‘bout Columbia.” Marjani sighed.

“No!” Mr. Punch protested. “She was wonderful.”

“Do you think she knew what was happening?” Robert asked.

“I don’t think so.” Marjani sniffed.

“Meridian,” Cecil began. “You’d best go let Miss Allen and the child out of that cupboard. We’ve got to find a way to get them out of here.”

“All of us.” Charles interrupted as he came in from the passage where he’d been lurking while Edward was in the room.

“Yes, indeed.” Mr. Punch said firmly. “All of us. Right, Chum?”

“Right,” Robert nodded, smiling.

“I’ll fetch her.” Meridian said, hurrying off.

“How are you going to get out of here without Edward seeing?” Adrienne asked. “You heard him. He’ll be watching the house. I’m sure he’ll have someone spying on all the doors!”

“We’ll figure out something.” Robert said quietly. “There’s got to be a way.”

Frenzied footsteps above them made the group pause. They listened as they heard Meridian’s hurried feet on the attic stairs.

She came breathlessly into the room.

“Meridian?” Robert asked. “Where’s…”

“She’s gone!” Meridian gasped. “They’re both gone! Miss Allen and the baby!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-200? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Be Better, Not Bitter

News of the first successful full face transplant this week raises an interesting point. The recipient of the transplant has professed his philosophy of being better, not bitter. It’s a very true concept.

While none of us can always change the events which shape our lives, we can choose the manner in which we handle them. Becoming bitter and angry is the easiest approach to life. We could spend our days complaining and seething. Anyone can do that. However, a truly remarkable individual will find a way to rise above the pain and make a vow to both ourselves and our loved ones to look at each challenge as an opportunity to be better. We may never be able to turn back time and return to where we were, but we can always forge ahead to become something even more wonderful.

Object of the Day: An Exceptional Ruby Stickpin

This is the height of mid-Victorian jewelry design for gentlemen. As jewelers developed more refined methods of assembling pieces and creating brighter cuts for gemstones, delicate designs became all the more fashionable.

A man of refinement would take great care on selecting the stickpin which would secure his cravat. It should not only match his attire, but be appropriate for the activities of the day. Here, we see a flower-head design of bright rubies with a slight magenta fire surrounding a neatly-faceted Old European-Cut diamond. Perfect in daylight or the elegant flicker of candlelight, this is a stickpin that communicated impeccable taste.