Quite a Coincidence
Mr. Punch slowly climbed the stairs, running his hand over the smooth curve of the railing. The cool wood felt good under his overheated hands and he savored that moment of peace. He looked up to Charles who still stood in front of the library door. “He still in there?”
“Yes, Sir.” Charles whispered, nodding.
“No, Your Grace.” Charles responded. “The only talking I heard was when Mr. Geddes told Gerry that he knew Gerry was staying in there to watch him.”
“Nothin’ after that?”
“No, Sir.” Charles shook his head.
“I got that Lady Constance outta here.”
“I saw, Sir.”
“She wanted to invite me and Dr. Halifax to dinner, she did.” Mr. Punch grumbled.
“It don’t sound too pleasant, do it?” Punch chuckled.
“Not to me, Sir.” Charles responded, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
“Well, I’d best get this over with, then.” Punch said sadly. “Wish me luck.”
“Good luck, Sir.” Charles replied, stepping aside so that he could open the door for the Duke/Mr. Punch. “I’ll announce you, Sir,” Charles whispered.
“His Grace, Julian, Duke of Fallbridge.” Charles said grandly as Punch stepped into the library doorway.
Mr. Punch felt his ears go hot. The man—with his shock of bright orange hair above pale, freckled skin—did not rise from the armchair where he sat in Punch’s library. Instead, he scowled as Mr. Punch entered the room.
“I don’t appreciate being kept waiting so long,” Victor Geddes spat in a low, deep voice.
“And, I don’t appreciate the intrusion of uninvited strangers interrupting my household before breakfast.” Punch replied in Julian’s voice, shocking himself with the forcefulness of the statement. Feeling bold, he continued. “I’ll thank you, since you’ve already been so rude, to not compound it with further impudence as I’ve been kind enough to honor your request despite the fact that you are unknown to me, Sir.”
Charles, who still stood at the door, and Gerard, who stood at attention by the papier mache screen at the corner of the room, exchanged startled, yet proud, glances.
Mr. Geddes’ face fell and his pale cheeks flushed. “I apologize, Your Grace,” his voice was not as deep that time.
“Well you should,” Mr. Punch responded, still speaking as Julian. He glanced at Charles and then at Gerard. “You may leave us, but stay at your posts, please.”
Gerard nodded, exiting the room. Charles closed the door behind them and the two men chuckled.
“Well done, Mr. Punch,” Gerard whispered.
Charles nodded as they stood outside the library door.
Meanwhile, inside the library, Mr. Punch frowned, remaining standing. “For what reason have you insisted on seeing me today, Mr. Geddes?”
“Sir,” the man replied nervously. “I have come to inform you of a danger to your household.”
“Continue,” Mr. Punch said firmly.
“You have, in your home, Sir, a fallen woman.” The man answered weakly.
“Have I?” Mr. Punch scowled.
“Yes. Your governess, Miss Ellen Barrett.”
“What proof have you of this?” Mr. Punch growled, still maintaining his Julian voice.
“Sir, the woman was involved in an inappropriate relationship with her former employer, the Baron Lensdown.”
“Is that so?” Mr. Punch leveled his eyes at the man. “Again, I ask you what proof you have.”
“I cannot tell you that, Sir.”
“Then, why have you come?” Mr. Punch asked. “Is your interest in protecting my household or is your interest in furthering some slanderous scheme of the Baron Lensdown?”
“I wish to protect the reputation and sanctity of your home, Sir.” The man replied weakly.
“How interesting.” Mr. Punch answered sarcastically. “I’d have thought your answer would be the latter.”
“You share a name with the Baron. Do you not?”
“You gave your name as ‘Victor Geddes.’ Did you not?”
“Isn’t that the name of the Baron Lensdown?”
The man looked confused, his face growing redder and redder.
“Well, then, man? What is your name? Out with it!”
“Victor Geddes.” The man answered in a curiously high-pitched voice. “I am called Victor Geddes.”
Mr. Punch began to feel quite ill-at-ease though he couldn’t quite tell why. “Yet, you are not the Baron Lensdown.”
“No.” The man replied, his hands trembling terribly.
“However, you share a name? That’s quite a coincidence. Don’t you think?”
“I don’t know, Sir.”
“And, you’ve come here to inform me of some slander against my governess? Yet you have no proof.”
“She’s a fallen woman, Sir.” The man shouted, his voice shaking queerly. “Fallen and disreputable. She’s evil!”
“Don’t you think you’d best explain yourself?”
“I cannot, Sir.”
Mr. Punch considered, again, striking the man with a nearby figurine, but thought better of it.
Meanwhile, outside in the hall, Ellen came down the stairs from the nursery and spotted Charles and Gerard standing in attention outside the library door.
“What’s this?” Ellen asked, squinting.
“Miss, you’d best go back to the nursery.”
“Why?” Ellen asked nervously.
“His Grace is in there with a visitor. We’re not sure what he’s about, this man, Miss.”
“Whatever do you mean?” Ellen asked. “Is this man dangerous?”
“We don’t know.” Charles responded.
“Who is he?”
“Said his name was…” Gerard paused, recalling the flowers that Ellen had received. “Victor…Victor Geddes.”
“Pardon me?” Ellen’s eyes widened.
“Yes, Miss.” Gerard nodded. “That’s the name he gave.”
“Let me in there.” Ellen said plainly.
“Miss?” Gerard’s eyes widened.
“Please.” Ellen begged.
“We can’t, Miss.” Charles said.
Suddenly, from within the library, they heard Mr. Punch shout. “Let me go!” He screamed, “Charles! Gerard! Help me!”
Gerard opened the door quickly and he and Charles rushed in to find the man who called himself Victor Geddes with his hands around Mr. Punch’s throat. Punch swatted at the man, striking him around the head and neck.
Ellen screamed from the doorway. The man looked at her and grinned.
“Roger!” Ellen screamed. “Stop this at once!”
“I can’t, Ellen.” The man moaned. “I gotta do it!”
“Roger—let him go!” Ellen wailed. “You must listen to me! I’m your sister!”
Did you miss Chapters 1-22 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 24.