Monday, June 11, 2012

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 59

Chapter 59: 

No Explanation 

Charles,” Robert called down the long corridor with its turquoise and gilt plastered walls and rows of monumental paintings of scenes from history. He’d just left his study and was on his way to see Mr. Punch when he spotted the footman.

“Yes, Sir.” Charles paused, turning to face Dr. Halifax.

“Have you just come from His Grace’s room?”

“I have, Sir.” Charles nodded. “He’s awake, but very tired.”

Robert nodded.

“Sir?” Charles said softly. “Whatever is wrong with him? It’s been…so…so long, Sir.”

“I don’t know.” Robert shook his head. “I can’t figure it out. It’s so sporadic. One day, he’ll be better; the next, he’ll be worse than ever before. Two weeks, Charles—over two weeks, actually. Over two weeks of this torture! I hate it.”

“It must be very difficult for you, Sir.” Charles sighed.

“Not for me! I hate it for His Grace! Frankly, if I could take the whole thing on myself, I would. Do you think I’m worried about my own comfort presently?”

“I didn’t mean anything by it, Sir.” Charles said quietly.

Robert sighed. “I know. I apologize. I’m…”

“I understand, Sir.” Charles smiled.

“It’s just that on the twenty-fourth, he was fine. We attended Her Majesty’s birthday dinner and His Grace was hearty and full of energy and strength when just two days before that he was abed in misery. When he bounced back, I thought, well…I thought that we were finally on the road to recovery. He endured the party brilliantly, he was very proud when the Prince Consort presented the stags’ teeth jewels to the Queen and, especially, when she reacted with such glee to them. Then, we came home and the next morning, he was stronger still. But, by the afternoon, there he was—again…dizzy and nauseated, unable to focus his eyes, shaky. Off and on…for over two weeks now. I just can’t stand for him to suffer.”

“None of us can, Sir.” Charles replied.

Robert shook his head. “Charles, I, again, apologize. I shouldn’t be speaking to you this way.”

“Sir, we have survived quite a lot together already. I’ve seen His Grace endure worse things than this. I’ve seen you endure worse things than this, Sir. I know that you both will triumph over this as well.”

“Thank you,” Robert smiled weakly. “The difference here, Charles, is that we don’t know what we’re fighting. At least before, the enemy had a face.”

“Beggin’ your pardon, Sir,” Charles began thoughtfully, “while it’s true that our enemies were clear when we were in America, there were also things that we had to fight which had no explanation. I never believed in such things until I was in New Orleans, Sir, but you did have forces working against you for quite awhile which had no clear presence.”

“You mean the voodoo?” Robert frowned.

“Well, yes, Sir.” Charles shrugged. “Not just the voodoo, but the Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, herself. You must admit, Sir, you saw some things while we were there that had no explanation.”

“Oh, I readily admit it.” Robert smiled. “Marjani taught me a lot. I still don’t understand most of it. But, it certainly opened my eyes to a whole world which I never before imagined.”

“I miss Marjani, Sir.” Charles said wistfully.

“As do I.” Robert nodded. “But, I don’t miss all that voodoo craziness. True or not, I’m glad to be rid of it. I’ll stick with science. Though…science hasn’t seemed to help me with His Grace, has it?”

“If anyone can help His Grace through this, Sir, it’s you.” Charles replied firmly.

“Thank you, Charles. I must say, you’ve proven to be a good friend. We’d be lost without you. Without you and Gerard both. And, Gamilla as well.”

Charles nodded. “In fact, Sir, as I was leaving His Grace’s room, Gamilla had just gone in to sit with him.

“How kind of her.” Robert nodded.

“I think His Grace enjoys Gamilla’s visits, Sir.” Charles continued. “While Gerry and I try to keep him engaged with games and the like, Gamilla just chats with him. She’s got a clever way about her, Sir. She’s got this way of making him forget how he’s feeling—if just for a little while.”

“I’ve seen her do it.” Robert answered. “You’re correct. It is clever. She relies on his creative nature. The way she asks him questions which she knows will distract him. So, you say Gamilla is with him now?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“You know, I must say, when we first brought Gamilla here from America, I was very concerned.” Robert squinted.

“Oh?” Charles asked.

“Not about her abilities…” Robert said quickly. “I was worried about how she’d like it here. London is very different than New Orleans. I feared that removing her from the culture to which she was accustomed might cause her sadness.”

“Obviously not.” Charles grinned. “I overheard her confess to Gerard, Sir, that she’s happier here than she’s been anywhere since she was taken from Africa.”

“I suppose that’s it, then, isn’t it? In her short life the poor girl has had to adapt more than any of us can imagine. I’m glad to know that she’s content here.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I trust Miss Barrett has Colin?” Robert asked.

“She does.” Charles nodded. “It’s bath time.”

“Good.” Robert sighed. “Perhaps she can bring Colin into His Grace’s room after he’s finished with his bath.”

“I’ll ask her, Sir.” Charles said.

“Thank you.” Robert answered. “I think…”

“Sir, are you all right?” Charles interrupted.

“I am.” Robert sniffed.

“You’ve not gotten much sleep lately.”

“No.” Robert shook his head. “But, that’s nothing. Someone needs to look after His Grace. I owe him my life—the loss of a little sleep is nothing compared to what he’s done for me.”

“Doctor,” Charles began, “you know, I would be happy to sit up with His Grace some nights. Charles and Gamilla would, too. To be sure, I think Mrs. Pepper and Speaight would as well.”

Robert shook his head again. “I appreciate that. I truly do. However, His Grace is…well, for lack of a better word…mine. He’s mine. I…”

“Say no more, Sir.” Charles smiled. “I understand completely.”

“I think I’ll look in on His Grace and Gamilla.” Robert replied. “Thank you for your help, Charles.”

“My pleasure, Sir.” Charles nodded.

Robert walked around the balustrade of the gallery, running his hand along the smooth, cool wood of the banister as he walked to the Duke’s bedchamber. He didn’t knock when he went in. He didn’t see the need. After all, he’d seen the Duke in every imaginable state. Why should he knock?

As Robert entered the room, at first, he thought the Gamilla was fluffing the Duke’s pillows. But, then, Robert saw the red, leather pouch which Gamilla held in her right hand as she stood over Mr. Punch—the corner of his pillow in her left hand.

“What is the meaning of this?” Robert spat.

“Doctor…I done…” Gamilla stammered.

“Step away from him right this minute!” Robert shouted.

“I can explain, Sir.” Gamilla pleaded.

“You’d best start, then.” Robert growled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-58? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 60 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

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