To Watch You Tell It
“Let me help you, dear Punch,” Robert said softly as he propped his companion up on several pillows which he’d arranged against the heavily-carved mahogany headboard.
“Sure,” Punch mumbled groggily.
Despite the fact that he’d been up all night keeping watch over Mr. Punch, Robert’s face showed no signs of fatigue. He was smiling for Punch’s sake though a tinge of worry showed in his bright blue eyes.
“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with me,” Punch muttered.
“I’m sure there’s not, my dear.” Robert nodded. “Still, since you’re still not quite yourself this morning, I’d prefer it if you stayed in bed today.”
“Got things to do.” Punch grumbled.
“Letters to write…” Punch held up a shaking hand and began listing his duties, each by weakly lifting a finger. “Cheques to write…one for the Goldsmith, one for the gem man. Oh…and I got to send the lists for the Goldsmiths Society…”
“I think all of that can wait for a day.” Robert shook his head.
“But, there’s more.” Punch argued absent-mindedly.
“And, it can all wait.”
“Tell me, dear Punch, how are you feeling?”
“I’m fine.” Punch snorted.
“Very well, my dear. We can continue in this way and you can continue to feel worse or you can realize that I know you’re not feeling well and tell me the truth so that I can better help you.”
Punch leaned his head backwards against the stack of pillows. “I’m nauseated, I am. And I feel like me limbs is shakin’. My eyes is all blurry and burnin’ and I can’t keep a thought in me head. And, I’m dizzy.”
“Yes.” Punch frowned.
Robert climbed up on the bed and stretched out next to Mr. Punch.
“So…?” Punch smiled. “This is your answer? To lie down next to me?”
“For the time being.” Robert winked. “I’m thinking.”
“Do you do this with all your patients?”
“Only the ones with whom I live and raise a child.”
“Ah.” Mr. Punch yawned.
“Honestly, my dear, I can’t quite deduce what the matter is. I’d say you had contracted influenza, except you don’t have a fever nor are you exhibiting any of the other signs of the illness. I suspect you’re exhausted. The burden you’ve carried lately and the fact that you never sleep appears to have caught up with you. I’m going to give you something to help with your nausea. And, I have some elixirs which will help restore your strength. However, for the time being, I think the best cure for you is to stay in bed and rest.”
“I know you don’t like to do it.” Robert took Punch’s hand. “But, you’re going to have to.”
“I’ll stay with you.” Robert smiled. “And, I’ve already asked Miss Barrett to bring Colin in later. I don’t think you’re contagious, so I believe it will be acceptable for the boy to sit with us. Of course, Dog Toby will enjoy this. See…” Robert pointed to the terrier. “He sleeps all day every day.”
“But, I ain’t Dog Toby.” Mr. Punch grumbled.
“No, but he’ll play with you. As will I. And, Colin. Gerard went out this morning—all on his own—to Brompton Road and stopped at Harrods. He selected some very handsome games and he and Charles are reading the guide books for them right now. They’ve asked me if they can spend some time with you this afternoon.”
“Playin’ games?” Punch raised his eyebrows hopefully.
“So, Gerry and Charles want to play?”
“And, you’ll stay?” Punch smiled.
“Try to get me to leave.” Robert grinned.
“Well, maybe it won’t be so bad.”
“It won’t. I promise.” Robert grinned.
Someone knocked on the door. Robert sat up and threw his legs over the side of the bed. Standing, he said, “Come in.”
Gamilla entered the room, carrying a silver tray covered with a cloth. “Good morning, Doctor. Good morning, Your Grace.”
“Hullo, Gamilla,” Punch replied as brightly as he could.
“Mr. Speaight said I could come up and see ya.” Gamilla smiled. “How are you feelin’.”
“Not so bad.” Mr. Punch answered. “Just a little tired, maybe.”
Robert nodded. “His Grace has agreed to stay abed today and get some rest.”
“That’s what Gerard and Charles done tol’ me.” Gamilla replied. “Oh, Your Grace, you should see them games Gerry got for ya this mornin’. One of ‘em is all ‘bout a journey all over the globe and the other is a guessin’ game with all these pretty colored cards. Best I can tell is you look at the pictures and try to guess what the person does for a livin’. There’s even some pictures of Punch & Judy on a couple o’ ‘em.”
“Oh!” Punch nodded in appreciation.
“Gamilla,” Robert interrupted, “would you like to set down your tray?”
“Oh, yes, Sir.” Gamilla smiled. “Thank you. Mrs. Pepper sent this up for His Grace.”
“What is it?” Punch asked, sniffing the air. “Smells salty.”
“Well, Sir, best I can tell is it’s some kind o’ broth. Mrs. Pepper says she used to make it for her children when they was small and would get their stomachs upset. Georgie says that it always made him feel better. Mrs. Pepper sent it and tol’ me to tell ya that she hopes you feel better real soon. We all hope that, Sir. We’re all thinkin’ of ya.” She giggled. “I know I shouldn’t tell ya this cuz they want it to be a surprise, but Georgie and Ethel and Jenny sat by the fire last night workin’ on somethin’ special just for you, Your Grace. They’re makin’ a greetings card. Drew the pictures all on their own—the three of ‘em. It looks right pretty. They’re ever-so proud. Mr. Speaight done said that he’ll put it in an envelope and all. They’re gonna send it up to ya with your tea.”
Robert smiled. “That’s very kind.”
Mr. Punch nodded. “Nice folk we got here. So, Georgie is workin’ out?”
“Oh, yes.” Gamilla nodded, setting the tray on the small table next to Punch’s bed. “We all like him, Sir. He’s very polite and respectable. And, so helpful. And, Mrs. Pepper is so happy to have him here.”
“I’m glad.” Robert responded.
“Now, Sir, I ain’t gonna stay and tire ya out. Only, I think maybe you’d best eat some of this less Mrs. Pepper gets her feelin’s hurt. There’s some dry toast that Jenny made earlier there, too. Bread’s from the baker though. Mrs. Pepper didn’t have time to make fresh today. And, Miss Barrett suggested some of those boiled ginger sweets in the little bowl there. In fact, those are from her own tin of em. Says they’re good for the stomach.”
Punch squinted at the tray which Gamilla had uncovered.
“I’ll see that he takes a few spoonfuls of the broth and a few bites of the toast.” Robert smiled.
Mr. Punch shook his head in a firm, “No,” causing Gamilla to giggle as she left the room.
“If you make me eat that, you’re only gonna see it again in a few minutes.” Mr. Punch warned.
“You’ve got to take something.” Robert answered firmly.
“Or…not.” Punch grinned childishly.
“Fine.” Punch muttered. Only I don’t want none of that broth. Don’t like the way it smells.”
“It is a little fishy.” Robert agreed. “Toast, then?”
“Nah.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “Give me one of them boiled sweeties to suck on. Me throat’s dry.”
“That’ll do—for now. But, you’ll need something more substantial soon.”
“Sure, sure.” Mr. Punch nodded, taking one of the candies from the small bowl which Robert offered him.
“Shall I read to you?” Robert asked.
“Nah…” Mr. Punch sighed.
“What shall we do, then?”
“Come back here and sit by me.” Mr. Punch answered. His eyes suddenly looked sad.
“What’s wrong, dear Punch?”
“Dunno.” Mr. Punch answered emotionally. “Just don’t feel right. Come sit by me.”
Robert did as instructed and looked up to see a tear trickle down Punch’s cheek.
“You’ll feel better soon, I assure you.” Robert said gently.
“I know.” Punch nodded. “But…”
“Maybe we’d best talk ‘bout what might happen if I don’t.”
“Punch.” Robert’s eyes widened.
“It’s somethin’ we need to think ‘bout.” Punch answered.
“No.” Robert said quickly.
“Chum…we got to…”
“No.” Robert repeated firmly.
Punch pressed his lips together and nodded. “Very well.”
They sat in silence for awhile.
“I just can’t think about it.” Robert said softly after a few minutes.
“I un’serstand.” Mr. Punch whispered. “Go on, Chum. Tell me a story.”
“What would you like to hear?” Robert smiled gently.
“Don’t matter.” Punch sniffed. “I ain’t gonna listen. I just want to watch you tell it.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-57? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 59 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.