Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 108

Chapter 108: 
The Parakeet 

Now, then, girl.” Mrs. North smiled at Gamilla as she placed another damp flannel on the young woman’s head. “Why don’t you tell me what really happened, lass?”

Gamilla closed her eyes.

“You’re gonna have to tell me.” Mrs. North said gently. “You owe me that much.”

“I’m very grateful to ya, Mrs. North. I ‘preciate what ya done, for true, only…”

“Lassie, listen to me. I ain’t never lied to the master of the house before. And, I don’t aim to do it again. I done it ‘cause you’re a good girl and I saw the way Finlay was talkin’ to ya. Wouldn’t be fair for ya to get punished for Finlay’s sins. I known Finlay Donnan all his life and I know what the lad is capable of. Oh, he ain’t all bad, it’s just he don’t think. He’s greedy, that one. He wants what he wants and all he can see is getting’ it. I see he’s after somethin’ now, the fool lad. What’s he after and what’s it got to do with you?”

Gamilla swallowed and turned her head, resting her cheek on the cool pillow.

“I heard what he said, lass.” Mrs. North whispered. “I heard him tell ya that he’d kill your Gerard if you didn’t do what he said.”

A tear trickled down Gamilla’s cheek.

“I also heard him say that if you told anyone he’d harm Master Colin.” Mrs. North continued.

Gamilla nodded slowly.

“See here, lass. He talks a streak, Finlay does, only he ain’t gonna hurt no baby. I know that. So, you may as well tell me what he’s after.”

“I don’t know, Mrs. North.” Gamilla rolled onto her back. She spoke so softly that Mrs. North could barely hear her. “He told me that I had to get rid of Gerard, that I had to find a way to get the masters to dismiss him and send him away. Then, he forced me to drink that whiskey. Finlay told me that I had to tell the masters that Gerard done got me intoxicated.”

“Now why’d Finlay want Gerard to go ‘way?” Mrs. North squinted. “In a few days, the masters and all of ya will be back in London. Who knows when they’ll come back here? Unless Finlay wants to go with them as the doctor’s man.”

“I don’t think it’s just Finlay, Mrs. North.” Gamilla said in a hushed voice. “See, I went lookin’ for Gerard and I done heard Finlay and Miss Barrett talkin’. Gerard and me, we’d just had a fight ‘bout Miss Barrett. Gerry said she were not good, and I defended her. But, you should have heard the terrible things she was sayin’ ‘bout His Grace! I was so embarrassed and mad, Mrs. North. I squealed when I heard what they was sayin’ and, then, that’s when they heard me. Miss Barrett went back to her room and, then, Finlay—he threatened me and, I reckon that’s when you saw him talkin’ to me.”

“What’d Finlay want with that brittle governess?” Mrs. North sighed.

“I don’t know.” Gamilla sniffed. “I thought she was my friend. I thought she was the Duke’s friend. I…I…” Gamilla began to cry. “I guess Miss Barrett fooled me.”

“Well, your Miss Bennett is an odd one, I’ll say this. Knew it the minute I seen her. Queer little parakeet—aye, Parakeet Bennett.”

“Barrett.” Gamilla corrected the housekeeper.

“What’s that?”

“Barrett.” Gamilla said. “Her name is Barrett.”

“Ah.” Mrs. North smiled. “I can’t hear so well. Thought you was called ‘Camilla” for awhile.”

Gamilla nodded.

“Barrett--you say?”


Mrs. North raised an eyebrow. “Where’s she from?”

“She came from London with us, Ma’am.”

“No, lass. Where are here people from?”

“Scotland, Mrs. North. From these parts, I reckon. She said when she was a girl she took a tour of the Grange.”

“Is that so?” Mrs. North shook her head. She paused, and, then, she smiled. “Now, lassie, don’t you think no more of it. You just rest so you’ll be beautiful for the ball tonight. It’s very important to His Grace.”

“Yes, Mrs. North.”

“Just you know that neither Finlay nor the brittle, ol’ parakeet are gonna do nothin’ to ya. You just rest and dream of your first dance with your Mr. Gurney. I’ve gotta go down now. There’s much to do before tonight.”

“Thank you, Mrs. North.”

“It’s nothin’, lass. You rest. I’ll come back for ya in about an hour.” She held up her hand. “Don’t say another word. Just shut your eyes. Hear?”

Gamilla did as instructed and Mrs. North crept out of the room.

As she hurried down the service staircase, Mrs. North ran into Finlay half-way down. “Where are you comin’ from, Finlay?”

“The master’s room.”

“Which master?”

“The doctor.”

“What were ya doin’ there?”

“I’d gone to help him.”

“Help him what?” Mrs. North squinted.

“Dress, of course.”

“That’s your Mr. Gurney’s job.”

“I know it.” Finlay snorted.

“Where was Mr. Gurney?”

Finlay was silent.

“You answered the bell without tellin’ Gerard?”

“Yes, Mrs. North.”

“No. That ain’t right, Finlay Donnan.”

“Dr. Halifax sent me away. He didn’t want me.”

“Aye—he don’t want ya, Finlay. He never will want ya. You just remember that.” Mrs. North smiled.

“I got my duties, Mrs. North. Excuse me.” Finlay muttered.

“Wait, lad.” Mrs. North put her hand on Finlay’s shoulder. “I was thinkin’, Finlay, ‘bout my younger days here. You know, you look like your da’ did in those days. Ol’ Johnny was quite the handsome lad when he were your age.”

“Yes, Mrs. North.”

“His sister was a fine lookin’ lass, too.”

“She was.”

“What was the name of the bloke she married, Finlay?”

“I…” Finlay shook his head. “I don’t remember.”

“You don’t remember your own uncle’s name, Finlay?”


“Weren’t it ‘Barrett?’” Mrs. North asked.

“Might have been.”

“I’ll ask your da’ later.” Mrs. North nodded.

“Of course.” Finlay replied curtly.

“Oh…” Mrs. North smiled. “And, Finlay?”


“You stay ‘way from that governess.” The housekeeper grinned. “She’s a bad lot, I think. She don’t got nothin’ you’d want anyway, lad. If you want idle chatter you can go talk to one of the girls. Or better still, go find yourself a lad in town.”

“Yes, Mrs. North.”

“Can’t have you associatin’ with the likes of the governess,” Mrs. North continued. “She’s a nasty wench. Reminds me of…” Her eyes widened.

“Is somethin’ wrong, Mrs. North.”

“No.” She replied.

“Are you sure?” Finlay narrowed his eyes.

“Talkin’ of the governess just reminded me that no one is watching the baby.” Mrs. North lied.

“His Grace and the doctor are.” Finlay answered.

“That’s fine.” Mrs. North nodded slowly. She looked into Finlay’s eyes. “You know that boy is really the Duke’s nephew. He’s Lady Barbara’s bastard son.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Ain’t it fine for a man to take his sister’s bastard son—the son of a highborn woman and God knows who.”

“It’s very noble.” Finlay coughed.

“I can’t think of many who’d be so kind as to take their sibling’s bastard and raise it as her own. Can you?”

“I’m sure it happens all the time, Mrs. North.”

“Even when the child is born of a wealthy mother and a low-born father?”

“Even then, Mrs. North.” Finlay replied nervously.

“Yes.” Mrs. North answered. “I suppose. Now, go on with ya. You got duties waitin’.”

Finlay scowled and hurried the rest of the way down the stairs.

Mrs. North leaned on the railing and watched as Finlay’s head disappeared.

“The parakeet is the Duchess’ daughter.” Mrs. North grumbled, shaking her head. “And, ol’ Johnny Donnan’s spawn. ‘Xplains a lot. Finlay, Finlay, Finlay. What’s she gotten you into, this sister of yours? Still, it explains so much.” She sighed. “Especially why the brittle bitch is such a cow.”

The old woman scratched her head. “How do I tell His Grace he’s got another sister?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-107? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 109 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

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