Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 54

Chapter 54: 
We are Amused 

You had to go and tell the Queen that I’d perform a puppet show for her,” Mr. Punch grunted as the carriage clattered toward Buckingham Palace.

“Some people falsely confess to murder, some people promote traditional English puppetry.” Robert winked. “We each have a calling. This is mine.”

“Oh, I see.” Mr. Punch frowned. “Try to do something to keep you outta prison and this is what I get.”

“Dear Punch, how is this an issue? You perform a puppet show every day.” Robert chuckled.

“Sure—for Colin and Dog Toby.” Punch sputtered. “Not for the Queen and Prince Consort.”

“Not to mention the Royal children.” Robert teased.

“Bugger!” Punch snorted. “I forgot ‘bout them. How many are there now?”

“Seven,” Robert grinned. “Princess Victoria, Prince Bertie, Princess Alice, Prince Alfred, Princess Helena, Princess Louise and Prince Arthur.”

“You don’t ‘spose they’ll wanna see the puppet show?”

“No.” Robert shook his head sarcastically. “I’m sure that the seven children in the house aren’t going to want to watch the Duke of Fallbridge perform a puppet show for them.”

“Can’t even do a proper show!” Punch moaned. “Only got two puppets! What’s it gonna be? Mr. Punch talkin’ to Dog Toby? How interestin’ is that?”

“I don’t know.” Robert laughed. “It’s interesting to me. I’ve spent many an hour watching my human Mr. Punch talk to our very real Dog Toby. I find it amusing. I imagine the same thing performed with puppets would be good for at least half an hour of entertainment.”

Mr. Punch scowled. “You gonna be the bottler?”

“If need be.” Robert smiled. He playfully poked Punch’s ribs. “You know, dear Punch, you don’t fool me. I can see through all of your muttering and grumbling. You’re pleased with how all of this has developed.”

“Maybe.” Mr. Punch raised an eyebrow. “Never thought I’d have to tell Her Majesty ‘bout…well…’bout me.”

“Nor I.” Robert replied.

“Still, she took it well.” Punch finally smiled. “Who’d think it? The Queen acted like it weren’t anythin’ unusual at all. Like it’s every day what a Duke tells her that he’s got another man livin’ in his body with him.”

“I think Her Majesty has seen much of human behavior. Though she spent her formative years basically a prisoner in Kensington Palace, the entire scope of human drama played out before her young eyes. I’m quite sure that at this point in her life there’s little which would surprise her. She’s so fond of you, dear Punch—fonder still, I think, of Punch than she even was of Julian. I noticed, I must confess, that she has a part of her personality which is rather child-like. Much like you. In many ways, I think she delights in playful things. I find it charming.”

Punch laughed. “Her Majesty finds you charming, too, Dr. Halifax.”

“True. But, it’s not surprising. I am adorable.” Robert winked.

“You think?” Punch teased

“You like me.” Robert answered, feigning offense. “Don’t you?”

“A little,” Punch nodded.

“Though I must say, you didn’t always.” Robert grinned.

“Not true.” Punch answered sincerely. “I always loved you. I loved you from the very start. It were Julian what didn’t like you so much. But, I can’t say as I blame him. After all, the first he knew of you, you were sayin’ odd things like he had another man’s mind within his own. That’s gonna be difficult to hear even if the words are comin’ from a face as handsome as yours.”

Robert nodded. “Julian likes me now, though. Yes?”

“He does.” Punch smiled. “Not to worry.”

“Punch,” Robert asked hesitantly. “He speaks to you. Doesn’t he?”

“He does.” Punch sighed. “Not so much as he used to. To be sure, I’ve not heard him in several days.”

“When he does speak, does he ever mention me?”

“Yes.” Punch patted Robert’s hand. “Course he does, chum. He loves you, too. I were only teasin’ before. Still, I gotta say, ain’t no one what cares for you more than I.”

“I don’t doubt that.” Robert nodded.

“Coo!” Punch grinned, pointing out the carriage window. “We’re here already.”

Robert cleared his throat. “I never imagined that I would visit the palace once let alone become a regular visitor.”

“Not just a visitor, chum.” Punch declared proudly. “One who were commanded to come by the Queen herself.”

Robert wiped his palms on his breeches. “I’m going to examine the Queen.”

“Maybe it’s best that when you do, you don’t think of her as the Queen. Maybe you’d best think that she’s just any other patient.”

“Perhaps.” Robert said nervously. “I’ll worry about that when the time comes.”

Punch took Robert’s hand. “Here, chum. Don’t be scared. I’m here. And though I won’t be in the room when you examine Her Majesty, know I’m nearby. ‘Sides, she’ll be in a good humor after me puppet show, she will.”

“Admit it, dear Punch.” Robert exhaled. “You’re rather enjoying the idea of performing for the Queen and the Royal Family.”

“Sure.” Punch winked. “But, most of all, chum, I’m glad that Her Majesty is goin’ to help protect our family. That’s all the matters to me. So, if I gotta do a thousand puppet shows for that to happen, I’ll do ‘em.”

Robert smiled as Hutchinson opened the carriage door and helped his masters out.

Punch straightened his back and arranged his face into the noble expression he’d adapted to look less like a wild puppet man and more like the Duke of Fallbridge as two liveried footmen guided them through the palace.

Queen Victoria greeted her guests—looking pained, but in good spirits. Her Majesty’s eyes twinkled when she spotted the basket which Mr. Punch carried.

“Your Majesty,” Punch and Robert said as they bowed after being announced.

“They’re in there, yes?” Queen Victoria said brightly, pointing to the basket.

“They are, Your Majesty.” Mr. Punch said.

Waving her hands to dismiss the footmen, the Queen stepped forward and grinned. “I’ve been quite excited all morning, Mr. Punch.” She giggled. “Who would have imagined that I would ever refer to poor, pale, timid Fallbridge as ‘Mr. Punch’?”

“It’s an immeasurable comfort to me that you do, Your Majesty,” Punch replied, becoming more relaxed.

“May I see them?” the Queen asked. “The puppets?”

“Certainly, Your Majesty.” Punch nodded. “Shall we sit?”

“No.” The Queen sighed. “Not yet. Sitting is torture. The little beast presses on me when I’m seated.” She placed her hand over her pregnant belly. “I’d prefer to stand.”

“As you wish,” Punch smiled. He set the basket on the polished floor of the red drawing room and removed the figures of Punchinello and Dog Toby.

“Oh, they’re lovely!’ The Queen smiled. “Just lovely.”

“Dr. Halifax’s brother carved them, Your Majesty.” Punch announced with pride.

“Who is your brother, Dr. Halifax?” The Queen asked.

“He is called Cecil Halifax, Your Majesty,” Robert answered softly. “He is a sculptor.”

“Here?” The Queen asked.

“No, Your Majesty. Not any longer, however, he did have a showing at the Royal Academy before leaving for America. My brother was employed by a waxworks in New Orleans—making handsome effigies.”

“I see.” The Queen nodded. “A waste of talent, that.”

“So he thought, too.” Robert continued. “Presently, he has returned to more traditional work, Your Majesty. However, as a gift he did make these figures for Mr. Pu…for His Grace.”

“No, no.” The Queen grinned. “Call him ‘Mr. Punch,’ while you’re here. If you please.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Robert nodded.

“I confess, I find the whole of it to be quite fascinating.” The Queen continued. “Shall we begin?”

“Will the Prince Consort and your children be joining us, ma’am?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Oh, no.” The Queen said gaily. “This is a treat just for me.”

“Ah,” Punch replied. “What an honor.”

“I’m glad that you think so.” The Queen answered playfully. She looked at Robert. “Stand by me, Dr. Halifax. We shall watch together.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Robert nodded.

The Queen narrowed her eyes. “You don’t like to be away from him, do you? Not even just these few steps away?”

“No, Your Majesty.”

“I understand.” The Queen said. “I feel the same about Prince Albert. Still, you can stay by my side. We’re friends, you and your Queen.”

“I’m honored to be at your side, Your Majesty.” Robert answered.

“Begin!” The Queen chirped.

“Your Majesty,” Mr. Punch began—finally feeling confident enough to speak in his own voice. “Today, we’re here to see what these fine wooden chums will say to us. Though they are but made of wood, they feel the same pride what me chum and I do, they do. We stand before our Queen, and our mission is to amuse!”

“We are already amused, Mr. Punch.” The Queen replied with considerable delight. “We are most amused.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-53 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 54.


Darcy said...

Fun chapter! I, too, am most amused.

Joseph Crisalli said...

I enjoyed writing it! Thank you, Darcy!

Book Gurl said...

I loved this chapter! I can totally picture Queen Victoria saying those lines.

Joseph Crisalli said...

Thanks, Book Gurl!

Marsha said...

This was sweet! I am relieved the queen is helping them, but I think those people are going to make trouble.

Joseph Crisalli said...

I think you're right, Marsha. : )