The Buzz of Voices
Gamilla never had a chance to confess how ill-used she’d been by Finlay and Ellen.
Just as she was about to speak, the Duke and the doctor (and even Colin) had fallen silent in anticipation of Gamilla’s next statement. Her declaration that danger lurked within the house worried her masters, and, so they offered their friend and servant their full attention. A strange anticipatory silence filled the nursery—one which had wholly unsettled Mr. Punch so deeply that even—from within their shared body—Julian could feel Punch’s angst. The addition of this anxiety to his own natural hum of worry caused Julian to stir uncomfortably, causing what could best be described as a dull pain in Punch’s stomach. He stifled the urge to belch as sweat arose on his brow and clung to the shining copper strands of his hair.
Punch and Robert watched as Gamilla wrung her hands and inhaled. As she parted her lips, the silence of the room was sliced by a knife of horrific sound which rose from below—fighting through the buzz of the voices of the guests and, even, the pipers.
Robert jumped when he heard the desperate sound—part cry, part howl and part scream.
At first, Punch thought the wail, which was distant, yet piercing, had come from within him—the manifestation of the pain of one of those who lived within the body he shared with Julian, perhaps even an entity of which he was not yet even aware. However, when he saw Robert’s reaction, he knew that the sound came from without.
So plaintiff, so mournful and besotted with woe was the cry that it elicited a similar response in Colin who pulled his lips into a frown as angry pink rose in his infant face.
“Shhhh…” Punch whispered to the baby, swaying him softly. His outward calm was belied by the expression of terror which glinted in his eyes like the stones of the ring which Robert had given him.
“Sirs?’ Gamilla yelped. She recalled the “spirit” which she had seen and grew pale. “Do ya think it was that poor lost soul?”
“No, Gamilla.” Robert shook his head. “Our worries lie with the living.”
“When I lived in Africa,” Gamilla began. “I once heard a spirit cry in such a way. Do ya think, maybe, it was the specter I saw—that man…”
“It were a woman,” Punch whispered.
Gamilla put her hand over her mouth. “Mrs. North? Cryin’ out from beyond?”
“No.” Punch shook his head. “That was a woman with breath in her bosom.”
A knock on the door made all of them jump and elicited a tired whimper from Colin. Dog Toby barked with as much menace as he could muster for he was as anxious as his masters.
“Your Grace?” Charles said softly as he and Gerard entered the nursery. “Did you hear that scream?”
“Yes.” Mr. Punch answered.
“It came from downstairs, Sir.” Gerard explained.
“From the Hall?”
“No.” Gerard shook his head.
“It sounded as if it was coming from the direction of the Blue Drawing Room.” Charles answered. “Ought we go investigate?”
“I think we’d best.” Robert nodded.
“What of His Grace and the child?” Gamilla asked. “I’d not like for them to be left alone.”
“Not to worry, Gamilla.” Punch said quickly. “I’ll lock the doors. I’ve got Dog Toby and I know how to look after me-self. Remember, I’m Mr. Punch.” He looked around the nursery. “Anyone comes in here, I’ll hit ‘em over the head with…” He shrugged. “With the handle of that bed warmer.”
“As adept as you are at striking people across the cranium, my dear.” Robert shook his head. “I’d prefer if someone stayed here with you and Gamilla. Charles? Will you be so good as to keep your post here so I can be assured that my family is well-guarded?”
“Of course, Doctor.” Charles nodded.
“Gerry, you can come with me, please.”
“Chum…” Punch began to protest.
“Dear Punch, you are our Colin's legal guardian. You need to stay with him. This is your place. You are his protector.”
“And, yours, Chum.” Punch replied.
“I know.” Robert smiled. “But, Gerard will ensure I’m protected. As Colin is smaller and more helpless, he needs all of your strength to be focused on him presently.”
Punch sighed. “Gerard,” he began.
“I won’t let nothin’ happen to the doctor, Your Grace.”
“Nor will I let nothin’ happen to Gamilla.” Punch nodded. “Nor Charles.” He added.
Charles nodded his appreciation.
“We’d best be off.” Robert said quickly. “I hope we return quickly.”
Robert and Gerard paused until they heard the door lock behind them and, then, hurried down the main staircase to the Great Hall. They needn't have searched for the source of the scream. She’d come out to find them.
The crowd in the Great Hall had parted as the Baroness Lensdown staggered into the center of the room.
Robert and Gerard watched from the landing as Lady Lensdown—whimpering like a child—stumbled toward the staircase. Hushed sounds of alarm arose from those on either side of her as they saw the woman’s gown—upon the front of which a large bloody stain had claimed a nasty spot.
Blood coated the woman’s trembling hands.
She stopped at the foot of the stairs and moaned, falling to her knees.
“Please,” She wailed. “Please help me.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-126 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 128.