Gerard quietly crept down the attic stairs, hoping to sneak into the servants’ hall unnoticed. He hadn’t counted on Charles being seated at the end of the narrow service staircase.
“Charles,” Gerard smiled despite the fatigue and confusion he was experiencing from sleeping all day. “How’s your wrist, mate?”
“It’s not too bad,” Charles sighed, standing up.
“You all in? Why are you sittin’ here?”
“A couple of reasons,” Charles mumbled. He pointed toward the door which led to the service entrance to the mansion’s morning room. Raised voices—or, to be more accurate, one particular raised voice—beat through the padded door and echoed throughout the servants’ stairway.
“Is that the doctor in there shoutin’ like that?” Gerard asked, rubbing his eyes with the knuckles of his index fingers.
“It is.” Charles nodded.
“He and the master havin’ a row? Ain't like them.”
“No.” Charles shook his head. “From what I gather, His Grace is just listening while Dr. Halifax vents his spleen.”
“What for?” Gerard asked nervously.
“I suppose he feels betrayed.”
Charles began to visibly perspire and his cheeks flushed.
“Not by you and the medicine,” Charles said plainly. “If that’s what you’re thinking.”
“So, you know?”
“I do.” Charles smiled. “It’s rather difficult to keep secrets in a room that size.”
“I didn’t mean no harm, Charlie.” Gerard said shamefully. “It’s just it’s been so long since I had a drop o’ the drink. I saw the bottle there and I wondered what it’d be like, is all.”
“And, doing so caused you to miss almost a full day of work.” Charles replied. “A day that Violet had to make up for you since Gamilla and I were busy and His Grace hasn’t replaced Hortence yet.”
“Vi had to do my work?”
“A large part of it.” Charles nodded.
“I do feel bad ‘bout that.” Gerard mumbled.
“Gerry, I understand why you did it. I really do. Sometimes a body needs an escape. I remember when I was a little younger—before I left Italy and Giovanni…”
“Your brother.” Gerard nodded. “The no-good one.”
“Yes.” Charles answered. “I would wonder if I could ever escape him. I wondered if I’d ever feel anything good. I know what it means to want to go somewhere else for awhile.”
“I know you do,” Gerard answered regretfully. “Only I ain’t as strong as you when it comes to that. I ain’t had a drop of anything in almost a year. Not even at the Duke’s celebration. But, I saw how warm and goofy that med’cine made ya, I was…envious, I guess.”
“You can’t do it again.” Charles responded.
“You didn’t tell the doctor?”
“No, but I thought about it. I was going to bring the bottle back the Dr. Haliax, but I couldn’t tell him.”
“Loyalty to your pal?”
“Partly. Also because we were interrupted.” Charles laughed. “But, I imagine some of it was loyalty. I didn’t want to see you get in trouble, I really didn’t. Just now I was about to try to return the bottle again—just to get it out of temptation’s way. I figured I’d tell the doctor I was taking it, but didn’t feel I needed it any longer.”
“What stopped you?”
“The front bell rang and when I opened it, in bounded Dr. Halifax, seething and all red in the face. I never saw him look like that before. Sure, I’ve seen him angry, but nothing like that. He bounded into the house, went right into the morning room and slammed the door.”
“That musta been the loud noise that woke me.” Gerard shook his head. “I thought maybe it were the Duke playin’ with Dog Toby.”
“Musta been.” Charles sighed. “So, the doctor sent me for His Grace who joined him in the morning room and, now, the doctor’s been shouting ever since.”
“Do you know what for?”
“I think it’s got to do with William Stover.”
“That Humpty Dumpty bloke who came here? The one you said you saw lurking in the square?”
“That’s the one.” Charles replied. “Saw him this morning, too. He was following the Duke and Dr. Halifax around Covent Garden.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.” Gerard scratched his chin.
“Nor I.” Charles nodded. “When I was upstairs with the Duke and His Grace earlier the doctor got a message saying there was an emergency at the Stover Porcelain Company and that eh should come right away. So, he left. We didn’t expect him back so soon. But, to be honest, I’ll bet there was no emergency. I thought when the doctor left that it had a fishy smell to it, that story. With all the doctors on that side of London, why need Dr. Halifax?”
“So, the doctor’s been in there yellin’ ever since?”
“Hmmmph.” Gerard snorted. “All I can say is that this Stover bloke better stay ‘way from here if he knows what’s good for him.”
“What’s this?” Ellen asked as she met up with the gentlemen in the service passage. “What’s all the shouting? I had to come down to see what was happening.”
“The doctor is upset ‘bout somethin’, Miss.” Gerard explained. “He’s telling the Duke all about how he was tricked this afternoon.”
“That Stover fellow?” Ellen asked, wide-eyed.
“Ya know ‘im?” Gerard asked.
“No—I’ve only heard him mentioned by the Duke and Dr. Halifax.” Ellen clucked her tongue. “He sounds like an unpleasant man. I wonder what the doctor ever saw in him.”
“Sometimes when a bloke is only, he’ll keep company with anyone he can.” Gerard shrugged.
“But, usually the doctor is such a good judge of character.” Ellen sighed. “This Stover man seems intent to cause trouble.”
“Well, of course, he is. The Duke is very wealthy. Who knows what this Stover wants? Did you see him lurking at St. Paul’s this morning?”
“Is that who that was?” Ellen asked. “I felt as if someone was watching us.”
“He was there all right.” Charles shook his head.
“He’d be smart to stay away from this house and from the masters.” Ellen barked.
“He doesn’t know what’ll hit ‘im if he does.” Gerard winked.
“I’ll tell you what will hit him.” Ellen smiled, balling up her hand into a fist.
“I like that,” Charles winked.
“Those two gentlemen have been kinder to me than my own brothers—and my brothers have been limitlessly kind, if that tells you anything. I won’t let them suffer for a moment.”
“You’re not alone.” Charles said firmly.
“I’d best get back to the nursery,” Ellen said. “Will you two please keep me informed if there’s more trouble?”
“Sure, Miss.” Gerard answered eagerly.
Once Ellen had left, Charles and Gerard stood awkwardly alone. Finally, Gerry spoke up.
“Charlie, ‘bout the med’cine.”
“I won’t say a word.” Charles nodded. “Only there’s a condition.”
“Just bring it back to Dr. Halifax like I asked.” Charles answered.
“Right after tea.”
“Speaking of tea,” Charles said with a panicked look in his eyes. “I’m going to need you help what with only having one good hand for the time being.”
“Sure thing.” Gerard nodded.
“And, there’s a letter to go to Countess Hamish.”
“Where’s Tom, then? That’s his job.” Gerard frowned.
“Gone missing again.”
“That rotten boy.” Gerard grumbled. He paused. “Why’s that old crone getting a letter anyway?”
“It’s from the Duke in response to a letter she’d sent this late afternoon. The Duke tells me that Lady Constance and Countess Hamish were here last night. Seems the old lady made quite a scene about having to wait outside for too long and she was terribly insulting to both masters. Today, she sent a letter of apology—making sure to remind the Duke that the invitation to dinner was still extended.”
“What’d he say? Do you know?”
“He responded that he will be unable to attend. That was all.” Charles chuckled.
“Good for ‘im.”
“I suppose they can stand up for themselves, His Grace and the doctor. But, it doesn’t stop me from wanting to protect them.” Charles continued.
“Nor should it?” Gerard agreed. “The Lord knows that anyone who interferes with those men will get theirs in the end.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-39 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Saturday for Chapter 41.