Monday, June 4, 2012

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 53

Chapter 53: 
Send Her Victorious 

Do sit, Fallbridge, you’re making me anxious,” Queen Victoria sighed.

Mr. Punch promptly sat down on the toile-covered settee to the right of Her Majesty.

“You know, Fallbridge,” the Queen continued. “Your mother was an absolute terror.”

“I am aware, Your Majesty,” Punch nodded, managing to maintain his impression of Julian despite the fact that his heart was racing in sheer panic.

“I’ve never understood how you managed to develop into a sane man with a mother like that.” The Queen smiled.

Punch and Robert exchanged glances.

“Is Your Queen missing something humorous?” Queen Victoria grinned slyly.

“No, ma’am.” Punch shook his head. “Perhaps only that sanity is relative.”

“You’ve made a joke, dear boy.” The Queen chuckled.

“Not intentionally, Your Majesty.” Punch said softly.

“The vicious tongues of the court say you’re mad, Fallbridge. You are aware.”

“I am, Your Majesty.”

“However, we know that you are not.”


“Quite.” Her Majesty nodded firmly. “I see that you are not mad. Would a madman lie about having murdered someone?”

“Quite possibly, Your Majesty,” Mr. Punch replied plainly. “In fact, almost certainly.”

“Not in this instance.” Her Majesty clucked her tongue. “Surely you must be aware of the information which has come to my attention? Lehzen’s ear has been impossibly bent by the Countess Hammish who was very quick to paint your handsome companion as a brute. Why Lehzen allows herself to be burdened by that tiresome woman, I’ll never understand. Hammish knows she’s not to come near me, so she hammers at Lehzen, hoping to gain favor.”

“I can’t imagine why any person would entertain Countess Hammish.”

“Personally,” Victoria smiled, “we think that if it’s true that the doctor was firm in his dismissal of Hammish, then, we have all the more respect for the man. She’s a troublesome nuisance, that one. But, you see, Countess Hammish was quick to point her brittle finger at Dr. Halifax when rumors of the murder of that man came to the attention of the court. And, so, when I heard that you, Fallbridge, had confessed to the murder, I knew that you had done so only to protect your companion. I see why you’ve done it. And, to be sure, I’m quite proud of you. You’ve shown you do not take after your mother, but rather exhibit the sort of loyalty which made Sir Colin Molliner such a favorite of myself and Prince Albert. I’d always suspected you were imbued with your father’s characteristics, and, now, I’m quite pleased to have the final proof of it.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Mr. Punch smiled gently.

“So, it is true, then?” Queen Victoria narrowed her eyebrows. “You’ve perjured yourself in order to prevent Dr. Halifax from being blamed?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Punch nodded.

“Fine.” Queen Victoria replied.

Robert bit his lower lip.

“This troubles you, Dr. Halifax?”

“It does, Your Majesty.” Robert replied sheepishly.

“You mustn’t let it.” The Queen shook her head. “I will personally see that this foolishness is quickly forgotten.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Robert replied, trying to restrain his emotion.

“There, there.” Queen Victoria smiled. She looked to Mr. Punch who sat with the elegant bearing of the Duke of Fallbridge. “You’ve made a good match for yourself, Fallbridge. Frankly, I never thought that you would. I don’t say this to be cruel. However, you must admit that your timidity would have caused anyone to believe that you’d never find a mate.”

“I’d never considered it, ma’am.” Punch smiled.

“You’re timid no longer.” The Queen smiled. “This brings me to my next question. And, yes, you must answer Your Queen honestly, dear boy.”

“I am prepared, Your Majesty.”

“You’re not mad—not in the manner in which we usually consider the definition of the word. However, you are changed. It’s as if you’re a different person. A different person with the same face, and, yes, some of the same characteristics. However, you must remember, that we have known you since you were a boy, Fallbridge. I would almost guess that you were another man all together—one who was performing in a play, mimicking the Duke of Fallbridge—very well, I might add. But, mimicking nonetheless. Gone is the blankness which haunted your eyes, replaced with a spark of life which heretofore was known, as least to Your Queen. How can you explain this? Before you answer, know that I find it to be an improvement.”

Punch and Robert, once again, exchanged nervous glances.

“Don’t look at him, Fallbridge. Look to your Queen and tell us the truth.”

Punch’s lip quivered.

“Fallbridge, your Queen is waiting.”

“I am not the same man, Your Majesty. The corporeal shell is the same, however, you are correct, the spirit within is one to which you’ve not yet been introduced.”

“And, who are you now?”

“Dr. Halifax calls me ‘Mr. Punch’ for that is my name. I have grown within His Grace since his boyhood and as he became increasingly debilitated, and rightfully so, by the tragic circumstances of his life, I have grown stronger in order to protect him and allow him the liberty of life.”

“Mr. Punch?” The Queen nodded slowly. “So, you’re a puppet?”

“When I imagine myself, yes, I am. I am a man of wood. Hooked-nose. Hunched-back. Big grin. When I see myself in my thoughts, I am not the man you see before you, but rather a wide-eyed Punchinello. However, to classify myself as a puppet would be false. For a puppet is controlled by another hand, and I am controlled by my own. More accurately, Julian is the puppet—easily manipulated by others. I exist to prevent that. I hope, only, that my existence has given some quality to the life of the Duke of Fallbridge.”

“Surely it has.” The Queen nodded. “In the last year, you have acquired a companion and a son. You’ve returned to London where you seem to thrive. For all of his genius, the true Duke of Fallbridge was unable to maintain such a life. You have, and, you’ve done so without compromising the talent which made you so appealing to us. You are not burdened by madness, you are freed by a new strength. Who are we to judge the method by which you’ve achieved this?”

“I appreciate Your Majesty’s understanding.” Punch nodded.

“My grandfather was mad,” Queen Victoria chuckled. “Truly mad. When he passed, he was no better than a hulk of marrow. This is not madness—what I see here. What I see before me is not madness. However, you are in a precarious position. I do understand what you’ve done by confessing to this murder. Still, doing so has made matters rather difficult for you.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“I shall do my best to erase it for you.” The Queen nodded, trying to rise from her chair.

Punch and Robert rose as well. Robert rushed to the Queen’s side and said quickly, “May I, ma’am?” as he offered the Queen his hand.

“Yes.” The Queen nodded, taking Robert’s hand and using his strength to help her rise. “Damn the little thing. Would that I were free of it!” She hissed at her pregnant belly.

“You shall be soon, Your Majesty.”

“Dr. Halifax,” The Queen smiled. “I shall help you and Fallbridge, but I shan’t do it without reimbursement.”

“Anything, Your Majesty.” Robert replied.

“I invite you both to join me at Buck House tomorrow morning. You shall take luncheon with me. Fallbridge will then entertain the Prince Consort while you examine me, Doctor. I am not pleased with my current physicians, Dr. Halifax. Your gentle demeanor comforts me and I trust you might make this horror easier for me.”

“I shall do what I can, ma’am.” Robert nodded.

“Good.” The Queen sighed. “I shall see you then. Gentlemen, do not worry about this trifle any further. I will personally speak with Sir Richard and ensure that you are no longer bothered with it.”

Mr. Punch bowed. “I am your servant, Your Majesty.”

Robert bowed as well.

“Rise.” Queen Victoria clucked her tongue. She looked back and forth at the two men and a sly grin crossed her face. “What an exciting life the two of you must enjoy.”

Robert and Punch shared glances again. The Queen chuckled.

“Before I depart, Fallbridge, I should like to ask you another question.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Punch nodded.

“You say that your companion calls you ‘Mr. Punch.’”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Does anyone else?”

“Very few know of my…” Mr. Punch paused. He was rather confused. When he spoke of himself as Mr. Punch he usually did so in his own manner. However, in front of the Queen, he still felt the need to maintain his impersonation of Julian. He began again. “Very few know of the existence of ‘Mr. Punch’ within me. Only our men, really, the maid we brought from America, the butler and the governess. However, they all refer to me as the Duke because the body they address is that of the Duke. No one of our class knows my secret. And, so, in familiar terms, I am only addressed as such by Dr. Halifax.”

“May I address you as such?” The Queen smiled. “It would please us.”

“Of course, Your Majesty. I would be honored if you would.” Mr. Punch blushed.

“How amusing.” The Queen said. “I do enjoy the Punch and Judy shows. I never was allowed to see them, being sequestered in Kensington as I was during my girlhood. I like the idea that you would be my private Mr. Punch.”

“Your Majesty, His Grace does actually possess a puppet. He’s quite good with it.” Robert blurted out, quickly regretting that he had.

“Is this so?” The Queen’s eyes widened.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Punch replied, blushing all the more deeply.

“Will you bring him tomorrow—the puppet?”

“I would be delighted, ma’am.”

“How thrilling.” The Queen chuckled. “How tremendously thrilling.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-52? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 54 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.


Darcy said...

What a great chapter! The dialogue was so natural I felt I was really witnessing a conversation between Mr. Punch, Robert, and Queen Victoria. Tomorrow's puppet show for the Queen is something to look forward to.

Joseph Crisalli said...

Thanks, Darcy!

Marsha said...

Great chapter

Joseph Crisalli said...

I appreciate that, Marsha!

Matt said...

I think you did an awesome job writing for Queen Victoria, buddy.

Joseph Crisalli said...

You're very kind, Matt.