Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 55

Chapter 55: 
Never More than Me 

Imagine,” Ethel sighed. “Just now our masters is sittin’ with the Queen.”

“I wonder what they’re talkin’ bout,” Jenny replied wistfully.

“I’ll wager they’re talkin’ ‘bout gold and diamonds and jewels.” Ethel smiled.

“That ain’t what they’re talkin’ ‘bout,” Jenny frowned. “Do you think that’s all rich folk talk ‘bout?”

“Well, makes sense, don’t it?” Ethel pouted. “His Grace is a jeweler and he makes pretty things for Her Majesty.”

“By the way,” Jenny’s eyes brightened. “Did ya see the ring what the doctor gave His Grace?”

“Didn’t I?” Ethel nodded. “Wasn’t it ever so beautiful? Wonder if a man will ever give me a ring like that.”

“You’ll get a ring.” Jenny chuckled. “A black one—right ‘round your eye. Any man stuck with you’s gonna blacken your eyes one way or ‘nother. If you can get one at all…”

“Is that so?” Ethel barked. “I don’t see no men lined up for you.”

“Where’s the queue for you, then?” Jenny laughed.

“I got a fella,” Ethel scowled.

“Sure ya do.” Jenny wrinkled her nose. “That bloody bloke what you found in the scullery?”

“Here! That were awful!” Ethel spat.

“Were he your true love, then?” Jenny teased.

“Quiet you two!” Mrs. Pepper shouted through the pass-through from the servants’ dining room. She poked her head into the kitchen. “I won’t have no more of that talk in my kitchen!”

“Sorry, Mrs. Pepper.” The girls said in unison.

“Just because the masters are out, don’t mean you can sit on your arses all mornin’. Jenny, we still got that dough to knead and them potatoes want peelin’ for upstairs dinner.”

“Yes, Mrs. Pepper.” Jenny sighed.

“She tol’ you, then.” Ethel stuck out her tongue.

“As for you, Ethel…” Mrs. Pepper stormed into the kitchen. “I seem to recall a stack of dishes still from our breakfast sittin’ in the scullery. I suppose you done ‘em?”

“No, Mrs. Pepper.” Ethel yelped.

“Then, how is it you got time to sit at my table wastin’ the mornin’ with Jenny?” Mrs. Pepper grinned.


“I should say you are.” Mrs. Pepper said firmly. “Furthermore, you two, I won’t hear you talkin’ ‘bout that poor soul, Mr. Barrett.”

“He were terrifyin’, Mrs. Pepper.” Ethel gasped. “He scared me.”

“I know he did, Girl. But, that don’t mean we should make him our fun. You know he’s Miss Barrett’s brother.”

“Poor Miss Barrett,” Jenny clucked her tongue. “What a sad burden.”

“Don’t let her hear you say that. She’s already sensitive ‘nough ‘bout ‘im.” Mrs. Pepper snapped. Her expression softened a bit when she saw how frightened the two girls looked. “Listen, you, I know what it’s like to be your age. I know I bark a bit, but you know I’m just lookin’ out for ya.”

“Yes, Mrs. Pepper.” Ethel smiled.

“What else were you talkin’ ‘bout?” Mrs. Pepper asked.

“The masters, Mrs. Pepper,” Jenny spoke up. “Think of it! They’re sittin’ with Her Majesty right this moment.”

“The Queen!” Ethel added. “Her Majesty who was in our very own house just yesterday. Wish I’d known…”

“Why?” Mrs. Pepper laughed. “Would ya have put on your finest gown and joined ‘em in the morning room?”

“No.” Ethel smirked. “But, I coulda snuck up to the gallery and had a look at her.”

“What’s she like, Mrs. Pepper?” Jenny asked.

“Well, how should I know?” Mrs. Pepper guffawed.

“Ain’t you never seen her?” Jenny continued.

“I did—once. When she were first married—a young bride with rosy cheeks. She was so beautiful and one could just see how much in love she was.”

“Ain’t it grand?” Ethel sighed.

“What’s that, Girl?” Mrs. Pepper said softly.

“To be in love?” Ethel smiled.

“It’s a fine thing, yes.” Mrs. Pepper said.

“I see how His Grace and the doctor look at one ‘nother. Is that how the Queen looked at Prince Albert?” Jenny asked.

“I only saw her—and not up close.” Mrs. Pepper shrugged. “But, when folks is in love, that’s the way they look at each other.”

“Is that the way you looked at Mr. Pepper?” Jenny asked.

“Jen!” Ethel shook her head.

“What?” Jenny shrugged. “Ain’t no harm in askin’! You don’t mind, do ya, Mrs. Pepper?”

“I don’t mind.” Mrs. Pepper shook her head. “Sure, that’s how I looked at my poor, late husband.”

“You loved him terrible much, then?” Jenny asked.

“I did.” Mrs. Pepper replied.

“Do ya miss ‘im?” Jenny continued.

“Well, ‘course she does, then!” Ethel moaned. “What sort of thing is that to ask? What are you like, then?”

“I miss him, Jenny.” Mrs. Pepper nodded.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Pepper.” Jenny whispered.

“Now, go on ‘bout your work.” Mrs. Pepper mumbled.

“Still, it is excitin’, isn’t it?” Ethel smiled. “We’re makin’ dinner for two men who are with the very Queen right now!”

“It’s a fine thing, Ethel.” Mrs. Pepper replied, unable to keep from smiling. “We should all be proud. Go on, now.”

The two girls skittered off, leaving Mrs. Pepper alone in the kitchen.

“Jenny! If you’re not headed to the larder for them potatoes, I’ll…” Mrs. Pepper tottered into the servant’s hall. Before she could finish her mild threat, a knock at the area door interrupted her.

“Stuff and nonsense…” Mrs. Pepper mumbled as the knocking grew more persistent. She looked around. Answering the area door was not really her place. Usually the answering of doors was the stuff of Speaight, Gerard or Charles. Seeing, however, that none of the men were anywhere nearby, Mrs. Pepper wiped her hands on her apron and walked to the door—grumbling the entire way.

She opened the door cautiously and peered up at tall, thin, young man with sandy-blond hair and a light growth of beard.

“Pardon me, missus.” The young man said sheepishly. “I were told there’s a position for a page that wants fillin’.”

Mrs. Pepper wailed with laughter, wrapping her arms around the young man’s waist.

“Georgie!” She shrieked happily. “Ever the silly goose!”

“Thought maybe you’d not know me, Ma!” Georgie laughed. “I grown a lot since you last seen me!”

“My boy!” Mrs. Pepper cooed, pulling the young man into the house. “However did you know we need a page?”

“Auntie Abigail tol’ me.” George smiled.

“Why ain’t ya at the factory, then?”

“Got sacked, Ma.”

“What’d you do?” Mrs. Pepper narrowed her eyes though the bottom half of her face was still smiling.

“Nothin’, Ma! Honest! They got a machine what puts the edge on the hose now. Don’t need me. I went to see Auntie and she told me that you said your master were lookin’ for a page. You always write how you like workin’ here. Thought maybe you could help your youngest get work. Besides, I missed your cookin’.”

Mrs. Pepper blushed. “Sure, Georgie. I’ll talk to the masters. Wouldn’t that be somethin’? Me own boy right here at Number 65?”

“I’d like it a lot, Ma.” George smiled.

“Not more than me, Georgie.” Mrs. Pepper said, embracing her son again. “Never more than me.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-54 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 56.

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