Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 67

Chapter 67: 

No one would done believe it,” Gamilla shook her head as she stared out the window of the carriage.

“What’s that?” Ellen asked, smiling at the girl from across the carriage.

“I done rode on a train.” Gamilla giggled. “A train! Me! Who’d think? And…now, I’m in Scotland.” She shook her head again. “When I was just a girl, I never thought I’d see all this.”

“What did you think you’d see?” Ellen asked.

“Our village, I reckon.” Gamilla shrugged. “Never knew there were places like England and Scotland. All I knew was a little bit of land in Africa. I gotta say, when we was taken to America, I was terrible frightened. I was just a girl…a baby, really. Oh, the things, I saw. I’d never want you to know, Miss. When we got to America, I thought that was it. I done thought my life was over. But, I got lucky. I got picked for house work. And, Mr. Fontanals—well, he wasn’t too bad. He left me alone at least. If I’d been older, maybe…well…”

“I understand.” Ellen nodded.

“Well, see…Mr. Fontanals, he sold me.”

“Why did he sell you?” Ellen asked. She paused. “Isn’t it terrible to even say the words? To think of a person being bought and sold…”

“It’s jus’ a fact, Miss.” Gamilla shrugged. “You know? I never knew why he sold me. I reckon that he found a prettier girl to work in the house. Marjani’s daughter…”

“Marjani?” Ellen nodded. “You’ve mentioned her to me before. She’s the woman who is raising her granddaughter—the woman who worked for His Grace and Dr. Halifax.”

“She didn’t really work for the Duke, no. Not actually. She’s a nurse. They’re friends. But, yes, you remember the woman I mean.” Gamilla sighed. “See, bein’ sold, for me, really was the luckiest thing of all. Dr. Halifax’s brother bought me. And, he set me free. Then, I come here. And, now, I done rode on a train. And…look! Right out that window is Scotland! I done seen the world, Miss. Never thought it would happen. I even seen where the Queen of England lives.” Gamilla wiped a tear from her eye. “My master is friends with the Queen of England. She done been in the house where I live. Imagine.”

Ellen smiled. “It is exciting.”

“You must be awful excited, Miss.” Gamilla took a deep breath. “This is where you’re from, ain’t it?”

“Well, yes and no…” Ellen nodded. “I did spend much of my childhood in Scotland.”

“With your brothers?”

“Yes.” Ellen continued. “We moved to London when I was…well…an adolescent. My father had opportunities. Also, we hoped that we could find help for Roger.”

“So, you all up and moved?”

“Not all of us. One of my brothers stayed behind. The eldest. He’d found a girl and they married.”

“So, you and your mama and pa and the other boys…”

“Not my mother.” Ellen sighed.


Ellen pointed out the window of the carriage. “We’re nearly there.”

Gamilla nodded, realizing that Ellen didn’t wish to discuss her past any longer.

“It’s beautiful country, Miss.” Gamilla smiled. “The Duke tells me that Their Majesties done got a house near his.”

“Balmoral,” Ellen nodded. “It’s lovely—I’m told. I’ve never seen it close up, and certainly not since Their Majesties have owned the land. I read that they launched a campaign of renovation on the house, but that it’s still too small. When we ride by, I’ll point it out. The Duke tells me that we should be able to see where they’ve cleared the land for the new castle.”

“Will there be a new castle?” Gamilla’s eyes widened.

“Oh, yes.” Ellen nodded. “Prince Albert has already commissioned an architect. I read in ‘Punch’ that they’re going to start this summer and that they’ll build the house from granite quarried from the estate.”

“Punch,” Gamilla grinned.

The London Charivari…” Ellen smiled politely. “It’s a periodical…”

“Oh, I know, Miss.” Gamilla laughed. “The name makes me smile since…well, you know why.” She paused. “It’s an interestin’ periodical, Miss. I done read it. The Duke gives me his copy when he’s finished with it.”

“Oh.” Ellen replied.

“Didn’t think that somethin’ like that would interest me?” Gamilla chuckled.

“I didn’t say that.” Ellen said dramatically.

“It’s all right, Miss. I’m only teasin’ ya.” Gamilla grinned.

Ellen nodded.

“Punch.” Gamilla tittered. “I sure am glad that the last two days have seen His Grace get stronger.” She continued.

“Yes.” Ellen smiled. “It’s miraculous.”

“It’s like God done jus’ wanted him to go to Scotland and see his papa’s family home. He jus’ lifted the illness right off him.”

“I sincerely doubt that God cares if the Duke of Fallbridge returns to his father’s ancestral home.”

“Maybe,” Gamilla shrugged. “Jus’ seemed like a nice thought. Still, I sure am glad he’s better. When we last stopped, I noticed he even had that twinkle in his eye again.”

“I can’t imagine why.” Ellen muttered.

“What’s that?” Gamilla asked.

“It’s just that riding all this way in a carriage is arduous enough, but His Grace has endured it with a baby and a dog.”

“But, he wanted to, Miss. He said he wanted to be able to sit with Colin and Dog Toby and the doctor for their first time riding through Scotland. It’s sweet. His Grace loves his family so much.”

“All of his family?” Ellen mumbled.

“What’s that?”

“Oh, nothing.” Ellen sighed. “I was just remembering that His Grace has a sister.”

“Uh huh.” Gamilla frowned. “Miss Allen.”

“Pardon me?”

“Well, Miss. I don’t know how much you been tol’ ‘bout the Duke’s sister, but when I met her she was called ‘Barbara Allen.’”

“I only know a little about it.” Ellen shook her head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up. It’s just that…well, I suppose being back in Scotland has made me nostalgic. I was thinking of my own family.” She took a deep breath. “I’m so excited for you, Gamilla. You’re going to have such a good time at Grange Molliner. I visited there as a girl.”

“You said, Miss.” Gamilla answered. “I think that’s wonderful that the Duke lets the house be open to visitors like he does. Ain’t it funny? Bet you never thought you’d work for the man who owns it.”

“No…I never thought that.” Ellen smiled strangely.

Gamilla squinted at the governess.

“I think all this rocking and bumping has made me a little dizzy.” Ellen sighed. “I…ummm…I’ve always found carriage rides to be torture.”

“I like ‘em.” Gamilla giggled. “But, you do look a little poorly. Can I get ya anythin’. We got some water or maybe a little digestive biscuit to settle your stomach.”

“No…I’m fine. Thank you.”

“You don’t look so fine.”

“It’s just the carriage rocking…”

“Hope you ain’t getting’ sick, too.” Gamilla looked at Ellen with genuine concern. “I know Charlie and Gerry say that His Grace was poisoned, but maybe he really was sick. You don’t feel sick, do ya? Are ya warm?”

“Sweet Gamilla,” Ellen reached across the carriage to pat the woman’s knee. “How you worry. I promise, I’m just weary from the ride.”

“You’ll let me know if you feel worse?”

“Certainly.” Ellen smiled. “I’m so thankful for your friendship. I think you’re my only friend.”

“No.” Gamilla shook her head. “Everyone in the house likes you, Miss.”

“Well, not everyone.” Ellen laughed. “Charles is not too fond of me.”

“Oh…you don’t worry none ‘bout Charles. He takes a long time for to warm up to folk. Took him months before he liked any of us. He’s a funny boy, but he’s so nice when you get to know him. Give it time, Miss.”

“Thank you, Gamilla, I will.”

“Oh!” Gamilla pointed out of the window. “Look there…” She pointed. “Look at them men haulin’ away them big trees. Is that…? Is that Balmoral?”

“Yes.” Ellen replied. “Looks to me that they’re just about ready to start construction of the new castle.”

“How excitin’!” Gamilla chirped. “So, we ain’t far from Grange Molliner?”

“No.” Ellen grinned.

“Good.” Gamilla cooed. “We’ll get ya out of this carriage and into a nice bath. You’ll feel better.”

“Don’t worry about me.” Ellen winked. “Everything I need will soon come to me.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-66? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 68 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

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