A Fine Day of Rest
“Charles!” Mr. Punch exclaimed, bounding immodestly across his bedroom toward his valet—his dressing gown flapping around his legs. “Look! I took me bath already!” He ran his fingers through his wet hair and then shook his head—sending water droplets flying around his shoulders. He whooped excitedly.
“On your own, Your Grace?”
“Yes, on me own.” Mr. Punch boasted. “And, I didn’t throw no soap neither—well, hardly none. Only three pieces. But, I picked ‘em up me-self so you wouldn’t have to do it.”
“That was very thoughtful of you, Your Grace.”
Charles smiled. “Let’s get you dressed, then, shall we?”
“Yes!” Mr. Punch chirped.
“First, I think,” Charles said quickly, gently putting his hand on Punch’s shoulder, “we should just take care of this.” With a large stiff brush, Charles deftly combed back the Duke’s wet hair. With one swift motion, he released Mr. Punch.
“I hate that!” Punch grunted.
“I know,” Charled grinned. “That’s why we’re always quick about it.”
“Well done.” Punch smirked, “but I’ll see ya comin’ next time.”
“Perhaps,” Charles replied playfully, raising one eyebrow. “How is Dr. Halifax this morning?” he asked, looking around the room.
“Still sleepin’—in his own room.” Mr. Punch answered. “Poor bloke had such a long day yesterday, he did—what with Lord Glencaron dyin’ and all.”
“That reminds me, Sir.” Charles nodded, removing a folded and ironed newspaper from beneath his arm. “Dr. Halifax and Your Grace are mentioned in the news this morning.”
Punch’s smile quickly faded. “Here, what for?”
Charles handed the paper to Mr. Punch who opened it frantically.
“There’s a mention, Sir, that you and Dr. Halifax visited with Prince Albert. And, then, there’s a sentence that states that the doctor was among those at the bedside of Lord Glencaron when he passed. It mentions that Dr. Halifax was the attending physician.”
“Is that all?” Mr. Punch lowered the paper nervously.
“Yes, Your Grace,” Charles nodded—unaware of the reason for his master’s alarm. He walked over to the wardrobe and began looking through the Duke’s suits.
“Why’d anyone care ‘bout any o’ that?” Mr. Punch mumbled.
“Well, Sir, people of your station are always of interest to the public, especially when you do something as exciting as visit the palace. Now that Dr. Halifax is associated with you, you’ll find his name in the news more frequently as well.”
“Hope not…” Punch grumbled.
“What was that, Sir?” Charles asked, turning around with a handsome deep green suit in his hands.
“Nothin’.” Mr. Punch wrinkled his nose.
“As you wish,” Charles smiled pleasantly. “I thought, perhaps, you’d like to wear your green today.”
“Nah,” Mr. Punch shook his head, tossing the newspaper onto the unmade bed. “Don’t feel like a green kinda day.” His spirits began to improve as he hurried over to Charles.
“Perhaps not,” Charles nodded. “What would you like to wear?”
“This!” Mr. Punch pointed gaily to his embroidered dressing gown. “Ain’t got trousers. It’s them breeches what’s the problem.”
“I don’t disagree.” Charles chuckled. “However, I think you’d best suffer through the breeches, Sir. There are ladies in the house.”
“True.” Mr. Punch sighed. “Very well—how ‘bout that brown one?”
“Brown, Sir. Or tan? Or cream?”
“What’s the difference?”
“Well, I know that,” Mr. Punch sputtered. “But, I’m askin’, is there any difference if I wear one versus another.”
“Oh, no, Sir.” Charles grinned.
“What do you think?”
“Will you be sketching today?”
“Yes.” Mr. Punch nodded. “Least after breakfast ‘til the doctor wakes up.”
“Well, then, I think the brown. That way, if you happen to get any of your pastels on your clothing, they won’t stain as badly.”
“I do spill a lot, don’t I?” Mr. Punch grinned sheepishly.
“You’re a genius, Sir. You’re entitled to spill.” Charles nodded.
“Am I?” Mr. Punch asked, somewhat wild-eyed.
“Certainly you are.” Charles nodded. “If you’ll pardon my saying so, Your Grace, I happened to look at the drawings you left on the library table. They’re really quite wonderful.”
“Yes, Sir.” Charles continued. “Are they for the commission you just received from Prince Albert?”
“Yes.” Mr. Punch smiled, letting Charles help him on with his pants and vest. “So, you really liked ‘em, did ya?”
“Very much.” Charles answered. “Both lovely pieces. A Necklace and brooch, Sir?”
“For Her Majesty?”
“Yes.” Punch nodded, squirming a bit as he pulled up his trousers.
“Is it a gift for Her Majesty’s birth date or did His Majesty wish to make a present to the Queen when she bears the child she’s carrying presently? If you don’t mind my asking…”
“It’s for her birthday.” Punch nodded.
“Her Majesty will love them, I’m sure. Pearls are always so smart on a regal lady. I particularly liked the use of Baroque pearls as indicated in your drawings.”
“They ain’t pearls, valet chum.” Mr. Punch grinned.
“No—they’re teeth!” Punch laughed.
“Ain’t me idea, Charles.” Mr. Punch giggled. “That’s what Prince Albert wanted.”
“Ah, well, he’s German, Sir.” Charles sighed.
“Don’t I know it?”
“Which scarf today, Sir?” Charles asked, walking back to the wardrobe after fastening the collar to Punch’s neck.
“Errrr…” Punch moaned. “Dunno. The rust-colored one!”
“That’ll be quite smart with your hair, Sir.” Charles nodded, unfolding the cravat of the Duke’s choice.
“I’d like the pin what Dr. Halifax gave me for Christmas.” Punch continued. “The gold one shaped like a leaf…with the diamond.”
After a few minutes more of fussing, Charles inspected the Duke/Mr. Punch and declared that he was quite handsome and ready for the world.
“Coo!” Mr. Punch teased. “Don’t know if the world is ready for me. But, no, we ain’t goin’ nowhere today. So, you can tell Mrs. Pepper we’ll both be in for all of our meals and that we’d like luncheon in the drawing room.”
“Yes, Sir.” Charles nodded. “Dr. Halifax isn’t seeing any patients today?”
“Not ‘less somethin’ terrible awful happens.” Mr. Punch shrugged. “But, he’s plannin’ on a day of rest. That’s why he should sleep as much as he can, I say. He deserves a day of rest. I reckon we both do—a fine day of rest. We’ll play, we will, with Colin and Dog Toby and the puppet.” Punch thought of inviting Charles, Gerard and Gamilla to play, too, but he figured they’d have to say no. Besides, he figured Speaight wouldn’t approve.
“I think that sounds quite fine,” Charles nodded.
“Yes,” Mr. Punch grinned. “Here, Charles, when’s your afternoon out? You got one comin’, yes?”
“I do.” Charles answered. “Thank you for remembering, Sir. Mine is on Saturday.”
“No, Sir.” Charles responded. “Today is Miss Barrett’s afternoon. Gamilla will watch Master Colin while Miss Barrett is out.”
“That’s nice.” Punch chirped. “I’ll bet he’s sleepin’ now, too. Huh?”
“Both me boys—sleepin’.” Punch mumbled. “Even Dog Toby’s still asleep. All three boys. But, let ‘em sleep, I say. They need it.”
“So, I shouldn’t send Gerard up for Dr. Halifax?”
“No.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “Let me chum ring for Gerard when he wants ‘em. He were up late—thinkin’ o’ things, he was. We both was only I don’t need as much sleep as he does.”
“I shall inform Mrs. Pepper to keep some breakfast warm for Dr. Halifax, then.”
“Make sure he gets lots of them kidneys what he likes. He can have me own share if he likes.”
“If there’s nothing more, Sir, I’ll take my leave.”
“Sure,” Mr. Punch nodded. “Here—you ate, didn’t ya?”
“We have downstairs breakfast very early, Sir. So, we’ve all eaten. Thank you, Your Grace.”
“Good.” Mr. Punch smiled. “I like that.”
“Well, then, Sir, good morning.”
“Mornin’,” Punch nodded.
As Charles opened the door to exit, both men were surprised to see Speaight on the other side—his hand raised to knock. Speaight, too, looked a bit startled.
“Your Grace,” Speaight bowed his head.
Punch quickly changed his expression to look more aristocratic. He and Robert had decided that, for the sake of the other staff, he would only act Punch-like in front of those who already knew of his personal idiosyncrasies. Punch didn’t much like having to act the Duke in his own home, however, he knew it was necessary, so he agreed.
Speaking as he thought Julian might, Mr. Punch began, “Good morning, Speaight. As you can see, Charles has already attended to me.”
“Yes, Your Grace.” Speaight nodded. “I’m terribly sorry to intrude on you so early, however, there’s a man here to see you.”
“Here?” Punch asked—more Punch-like than he intended.
“Yes, Sir. He’s waiting in the vestibule.”
“Are you sure he’s come to see me?” Punch asked, regaining his composure. “Perhaps he’s come for the doctor?”
“No, Your Grace.” Speaight sighed. “He asked specifically for you. He’s quite insistent.”
“Did he give a name?”
“Yes, Sir,” Speaight nodded. “He had no calling card--which I found quite queer, however, he called himself Victor Geddes.”
“Geddes?” Mr. Punch asked, still trying to sound like Julian. “Scotch?”
“Yes, Your Grace.”
“No, Your Grace. He’s well-dressed, but clearly not a peer. My first thought was to send him away, however, his plea was so impassioned. He insisted that it was a dire matter and that only you could assist him.”
“I don’t know the man.” Mr. Punch responded.
“Nor I, Your Grace.” Speaight shook his head. “I like to think that I know all of the families in Belgravia and Mayfair. There was once a Geddes family on this street. They moved to Grosvenor Square when the man of the house was created Fourth Baron of Lensdown. If you’ll recall, that was the family for whom Miss Barrett once worked.”
“Yes, certainly,” Mr. Punch nodded though he did not remember. He figured that that was the sort of thing which Julian might have recorded, so he pretended to know.
Charles squinted—an expression which did not escape Punch’s attention. Punch wondered why his man was looking so puzzled. Little did he know that Charles was remembering the flowers which had been left for Miss Barrett by a man named “Victor.” Charles wondered if Mr. Speaight—inscrutable as he was—had thought of the same thing.
“Speaight, you’re certain this man is not the Baron of Lensdown?” Mr. Punch asked, still using his best Julian voice.
“Most certain, Your Grace. This man is fair whereas the Baron is dark. Furthermore, the Baron of Lensdown would have presented a card and announced his title.”
“Yes.” Punch nodded. He turned around and pretended to study something out the window so that Speaight would not see the nervousness on his face. “I had not intended to receive anyone today, Speaight.”
“I shall send him away, then, Sir.” Speaight nodded.
“Yes, thank you.”
Punch turned around and smiled, but his smile turned to a frown as he saw Gerard trot into the room.
“Oh, no, Gerard, let’s let Dr. Halifax sleep,” Punch said quickly, finding it more difficult to maintain Julian’s manner of speech. He wasn’t accustomed to speaking to so many people at once—especially when some of them knew he was both Mr. Punch and the Duke and others did not.
“Pardon me, Sir,” Gerard replied. “I’ve come to tell you someone is here to see you.”
“I’ve already taken care of that, Gerard,” Speaight growled.
“No, Sir—not the man. There’s a Lady here to see His Grace as well.”
“A lady?” Speaight asked. “This is highly irregular.”
“Here’s her card, Sir.” Gerard offered a calling card on a small silver salver to Mr. Punch who took it.
“The Lady Constance Hamish.” Punch read aloud.
“Daughter of the Countess Hamish, Sir. They reside at Number Seven Two.” Speaight explained.
“That explains why they call it Hamish House, then,” Mr. Punch tried making a joke.
No one laughed and he could feel the sweat rising on his forehead.
“I brought her into the morning room, Sir.” Gerard explained. “I figured a lady shouldn’t wait in the vestibule, especially with a strange man.”
“Perhaps you should awaken Dr. Halifax,” Charles suggested softly.
Speaight glowered at the man for speaking out of turn.
“No, Charles,” Punch shook his head. He sighed quickly. “Gerard, the man is still in the vestibule?”
“Yes, Sir.” Gerard nodded.
Punch cleared his throat to stall for time. How would Julian handle such a situation? He wondered. Punch concluded that Julian wouldn’t be able to handle the situation at all—after all, wasn’t that why he’d retreated to the safety and quiet of the interior of their shared body and allowed Mr. Punch to take over.
“Gerard,” Punch began, “Please show the gentleman to the library, but keep an eye on him. Make work for yourself in there until I arrive. I shall see Lady Hamish in the morning room first.”
“Are you sure, Sir?” Charles whispered. “Mr. Speaight certainly can send him away. That’s not a bad idea.”
Again, Speaight stared daggers at Charles.
“I am sure, Charles.” Punch replied softly. “I think.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-20 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 22.