Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 62

Chapter 62: 
Call Him Back 

Doctor,” Prince Albert gasped as Dr. Snow lumbered out of the Queen’s bedchamber. “How is Her Majesty?”

“I’ve given Her Majesty the chloroform.” Dr. Snow responded sharply.

“And?” The Prince spat.

“Her Majesty ejected me from the room.” Dr. Snow retorted.

“I don’t understand.” Prince Albert barked. “How is this possible? You’ve administered the chloroform.”

“Her Majesty is dissatisfied with me. She has been most clear about this, Prince Albert.” Dr. Snow replied curtly.

“So you will leave Your Queen?” Prince Albert’s eyes widened.

“The Queen does not want me, Your Majesty.” Dr. Snow bellowed.

“Who does she want, then?” Prince Albert snapped.

“Him!” Dr. Snow pointed to Robert who was sitting quietly and patiently in the corner of the anteroom.

“Very well, Dr. Snow.” Prince Albert growled. “You may wait here. Dr. Halifax, Your Queen has summoned you.”

Robert rose nervously from his chair. “Will you accompany me, Your Majesty?”

“Good heavens, no, man!” Prince Albert roared. “I cannot go in there!”

Robert nodded. Bracing himself, he walked toward the door to the Queen’s private chamber and knocked lightly on the door before entering. “It’s just a woman giving birth,” Robert thought to himself. “It’s no different than any other.”

He bowed upon entering the room. “Your Majesty asked for me?”

“Come here!” The Queen moaned. The effects of the chloroform were becoming evident. Her speech was slurred and her eyelids were heavy.

“Your Majesty,” Robert walked to the bed where the Queen lay, her legs spread and her knees up.

“Get it out of me.” The Queen moaned. “For God’s sake get the little beast out of me.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Robert nodded as the Queen drifted off.

Removing his jacket and rolling up his sleeves, Robert knew that the survival of the eighth child of the Queen and Prince Consort depended on him alone.

Meanwhile, back at No. 65 Belgrave Square, Gerard whooped with joy. “Ha! I won!”

“Yes, you did.” Punch said softly, leaning back from the game board which Charles and Gerard had set up on his bed.

Charles and Gerard exchanged glances.

“I’m sorry, Your Grace.” Gerard whispered.

“What for?” Punch asked, making himself smile.

“For winning, Sir.” Gerard smiled sheepishly.

“Ain’t that the point of playin’ a game?” Punch asked.

“I shouldn’t have beaten you, Sir.” Gerard continued.

“Why? Cuz I’m a Duke? Don’t be silly, Gerry.” Punch mumbled.

“Can we get you anything, Sir?” Charles asked, seeing that their master was feeling worse.

“No.” Punch shook his head feebly.

“Do you wanna play another round, then?” Gerard asked.

“Dunno.” Mr. Punch answered. “Maybe not.”

“We can let you rest, Sir.” Charles nodded.

“No.” Punch rasped. “Don’t leave me.”

“Yes, Sir.” Gerard nodded, clearing the game off of the bed. He and Gerard put the pieces of the complicated board game back in their wooden box.

Once they’d finished, Gerard smiled at the Duke. “May we sit, Sir?”

“Sure. I’d like that.” Punch mumbled weakly.

Charles nodded and Gerard pulled two of the upholstered chairs from near the mantel toward the side of the bed.

“Don’t forget a third one.” Punch muttered.

“Third one, Sir?” Charles asked.

“Sure.” Punch whispered.

“For who, Sir?” Charles said playfully. “Dog Toby’s on his cushion. Has been since Georgie brought him up. Don’t think he needs a chair, Sir.”

“Not for Dog Toby.” Punch rasped.

“For who, then?” Gerard asked seriously.

“For Naasir.” Punch squinted.

“Naasir?” Gerard raised his eyebrows.

“Naasir was His Grace’s man before me. The African bloke who was killed in New Orleans.” Charles whispered to Gerard.

“Well, I know that.” Gerard frowned. “Gamilla’s told me all ‘bout him. But…”

Charles shrugged.

“What are you two talkin’ ‘bout?” Punch grumbled.

“Your Grace,” Charles spoke up, “why do you think we need a chair for Naasir?”

“Cuz he’s here.” Punch said clearly.

“You see ‘im, Sir?” Gerard asked nervously.

“No.” Punch shrugged. “But, I know he’s here. Saw him, I did—once. He came to me. After he died. Saw him in me own thoughts. He spoke to me and helped me. He’s here now, too. Tryin’ to help. Make a place for him.”

Gerard and Charles looked at one another. Finally, Charles rose and dragged another chair over.

“I…” Punch coughed.

“What is it, Your Grace?” Charles asked gently. “I can’t see so well.”

“Shall I light some more candles?” Gerard asked quickly.

Charles shook his head. “Close your eyes, Your Grace. It’s time to rest.”

“It’s cold in here, it is.” Punch sighed.

Gerard rose to go stoke the fire.

“Ohhh…” Punch moaned.

“Your Grace?” Charles rose and leaned over his master.

Mr. Punch closed his eyes.

“Your Grace?” Charles repeated, gently touching his employer’s arm.

Mr. Punch did not respond.

“Sir?” Charles said urgently, shaking the Duke’s body slightly.

Still, no response.

“Charlie?” Gerard asked, walking closer.

“He’s not waking up.” Charles said, terror creeping into his voice.

“What do we do?” Gerard trembled. “The doctor’s at the palace!”

“Call for Miss Barrett, I think.” Charles said quickly. “Go on up to the nursery and get her. She’s got some trainin’ as a nurse. I’ll ring for Mr. Speaight.”

“Don’t worry, Your Grace.” Charles said from across the room. “We’ll help you. We’ll get you back.”

If only the two men knew where Mr. Punch had gone, they’d both have known that it was too late to call him back.

Did you miss Chapters 1-61? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 63 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

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