Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 61

Chapter 61: 
Ready to Lose 

Come in,” Mr. Punch said feebly in response to the light rap on his bedroom door.

“Your Grace?” Miss Barrett smiled, entering the room. She carried a small try containing a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits.

“Oh, Miss Barrett…” Mr. Punch nodded weakly. “I were ‘xpectin’ Charlie and Gerry.”

“They’ll be up shortly,” Ellen nodded. “I was just in the servants’ hall while Gamilla bathes Colin and I heard that Dr. Halifax was called to the palace, so I thought I’d come up and visit you if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind.” Mr. Punch whispered. “How is Colin today?”

“He’s very well, Sir.” Ellen replied, setting the tray next to Mr. Punch’s bed. “He’s looking forward to coming down to sit with his father before bedtime.”

Mr. Punch smiled.

“Are you feeling better at all, Sir?” Ellen asked.

“No.” Mr. Punch sighed.

“We all thought you were on the mend,” Miss Barrett clucked her tongue. “When you went to Her Majesty’s birthday dinner, you seemed so much better.”

“Guess not,” Punch mumbled. He wrinkled his nose and glanced at the tray.

“I brought you some of Mrs. Pepper’s ginger biscuits. I thought that if you were still queasy they’d help settle your stomach. And, a nice cup of tea to wash them down…”

“Thank you, Miss Barrett…” Mr. Punch coughed as he felt the urge to vomit, “but not right now.”

“I do think it’ll help.” Ellen smiled. “And, Mrs. Pepper would be offended if you didn’t at least take a bite.”

“Maybe later.” Mr. Punch said.

“As you wish, Your Grace,” Ellen nodded.

“Have you been to visit your brother?” Punch asked, happy to change the subject from food.

“I have, Your Grace. I must say that James is doing a fine job looking after my brother. I’m so grateful to you and Dr. Halifax.”

Mr. Punch nodded.

“Would you like for me to leave you alone?” Miss Barrett asked after a moment. “You don’t look as if you’re up to company.”

“No, I’m fine.” Mr. Punch replied, forcing himself to smile. “I been lookin’ forward to Gerry and Charles comin’ to play and I want to see Collin later. And soon, Dog Toby will be back from his walk with Georgie. Besides, I wanna see how Dr. Halifax did at the palace.”

“Mr. Speaight says that Her Majesty will be bringing a new prince or princess into the world at any moment.”

Mr. Punch answered, “That’s it. Robert…errr…Dr. Halifax has gone to assist.”

“How exciting!’ Ellen cooed.

“Indeed.” Mr. Punch gagged a bit. “Pardon me. I can’t help it.”

“Have you thought that perhaps leaving the city for awhile might be beneficial?” Ellen asked.

“Funny you mention it.” Punch cleared his throat. “Just about a fortnight ago, Dr. Halifax and I discussed it. We decided to wait until after the Queen’s child came in case Her Majesty wanted him to attend. I’m glad we waited, I am, as it seems he was needed after all.”

“Well, now, you’ll be able to go somewhere if you’d like.”

“Yes.” Mr. Punch responded.

“Any idea where you’d like to go, Your Grace.”

“Their Majesties said we were welcome to use Osborne House now that it’s finished.” Mr. Punch rasped.

“That’s on the Isle of Wight, yes?”

“Yes.” Mr. Punch said.

“Will you go?” Ellen continued.

“Dunno.” Mr. Punch shrugged stiffly. “Their Majesties will be going to Bamoral as soon as the child can travel. I think I’d prefer to go to Scotland. Grange Molliner is also in Aberdeenshire, so we can be close to Balmoral if Their Majesties want Robert to look in either on Her Majesty or the new baby. Then,” Punch smiled, “I could show Colin and Dr. Halifax around me pa’s ancestral home.”

“It is beautiful.” Ellen nodded.

“Huh?” Punch raised his eyebrow.

“Remember, Your Grace? I was able to tour the estate once when I was still in Scotland.”

“Ah, of course.” Punch sighed. “I’d forgotten. Do you still have kin in Scotland? Your parents?”

“No.” Ellen sniffed. “My remaining family is in London now.” She paused. “Would you be taking any of the staff with you to Scotland if you were to go?”

“Well, I ‘spose we’d have to. We’d, of course, need Charles and Gerard. Since the estate only has a small staff, we’d take Speaight and Mrs. Pepper. I’d want Gamilla to come. That would leave Jenny, Violet, Ethel, Georgie and Hutchinson here since we’d hire carriages. Jenny could cook for the staff, I think. Well enough anyway.”

“What of Colin?”

“That’s my question, Miss Barrett. Dr. Halifax and I weren’t sure if you’d wish to come. We’d have Gamilla to look after Colin. We rather assumed you’d want to stay in London to be near your brother.”

“Sir, I shouldn’t like to shirk my duties. I’ve already missed more than I ever dreamed. Now that Roger is being looked after by James, I see no reason why I shouldn’t go to Scotland.”

“Good to know,” Punch smiled. “I shall let you know, then, if we make plans.”

“I do hope you can go soon, Your Grace.” Ellen said gently.

“Yes.” Mr. Punch took a deep breath to steady his stomach.

The door creaked open as Charles and Gerard entered. Gerard carried a silver tray containing another teacup and another plate of biscuits, and Charles carried boxes of games under his right arm.

“Here, we are, then, Your Grace. Hope you’re ready for a bit of…” Gerard paused when he saw Miss Barrett. “Oh, pardon me. Didn’t know you was in here, Miss.”

“I was just keeping His Grace company until you two arrived.” Ellen rose. “I’ll take my leave now.”

“Don’t mean to rush you out.” Gerard smiled.

“No, no. I know how much the Duke has been looking forward to your game.” Ellen shook her head.

“Who brought that tea, Sir?” Charles asked, pointing to the tray with his un-bandaged hand. “Mrs. Pepper just sent us up with this tray.”

“I brought it.” Ellen said quickly.

“Oh.” Charles nodded.

“Here, I ain’t gonna eat none of it,” Punch mumbled. “You boys can eat the biscuits.”

“Oh,” Ellen smiled. “Let me take this back to the kitchen.” She quickly picked up the tray she’d placed near Punch’s bed. “They’ve been sitting here. I’m sure they’re stale.”

“Same batch as these,” Charles shrugged. “Sure they’re fine.”

“No, no.” Ellen giggled. “Nothing but the best for the men of this house. I’ll bring up fresh.”

“Thank you kindly, Miss Barrett.” Gerard nodded.

“I’ll see you shortly when I bring Colin in, Your Grace.” Ellen smiled as she exited. “Do feel better.”

Punch nodded.

“That’s the most I’ve seen of Miss Barrett in awhile,” Gerard muttered as he cleared a spot on Punch’s bed to set up the game board.

“Don’t she take her meals with you?” Punch rasped.

“Last couple o’ weeks, she’s stayed mostly in the nursery.” Gerard replied casually.

“Hmmm.” Punch sighed. “I guess with Colin growin’ each hour, she needs to spend as much time with him as possible. Bet he misses playin’ with me.”

“You’ll be back at his side before you know it, Your Grace.” Charles answered positively.

“I trust.” Punch answered quietly.

“Just think, Sir. Soon, there’ll be a new prince for our Colin to play with.” Gerard joked.

“You think it’ll be a prince?” Charles asked.

“I do.” Gerard said. “Dr. Halifax will see to it.”

“How’s he gonna do that?” Charles laughed. “Ain’t like he gonna paste on…” Charles blushed, looking up at Punch.

“Go on…” Punch chuckled weakly.

“Never mind, Sir.” Charles mumbled.

“Sir,” Gerard asked sheepishly. “Were you serious ‘bout eatin’ them biscuits?”

“Sure.” Punch nodded.

“Charlie?” Gerard grinned, offering the plate to his friend.

“Nah. You go ‘head.” Charles shook his head.

“Wish Miss Barrett’d left the other plate.” Gerard said—his mouth full of cookies.

“You know governesses,” Charles shrugged. “Always tryin’ to clean up after everyone.”

Punch squinted, looking up at the door. He coughed.

“Somethin’ wrong, Your Grace?” Gerard asked.

“Errr…” Punch sputtered. “No. I dunno. Just had a funny thought.”

“What about, Sir?” Charles wondered.

“Dunno. Not so much a thought, I guess as…as…a feelin’. A shiver. Like I heard…somethin’.” Punch forced a smile. “Don’t matter. Let’s play. Hope you’re ready to lose, boys.”

“Oh, is that it, then?” Gerard grinned.

“That it.” Mr. Punch winked.

“Well, then, sir, as you say, ‘That’s the way to do it.’” Gerard teased.

“It sure is,” Punch nodded slowly, feeling the same “shiver” as he had before. “It sure is.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-60? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 62 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.


Marsha said...

There's something rotten going on...

Joseph Crisalli said...

Yes, there is.