A Streak of Sensibility
Despite Mr. Punch's Protestations, he, Robert, Charles and Lennie made their way to the stables. Upon Robert's instructions, Finlay had been taken downstairs and locked in the very vault where he and Ellen had left Mrs. North's body. Georgie, Mrs. Pepper and the girls watched over Gamilla who tended both to Gerard and little Colin. Alert, Dog Toby stood at attention at the door to the Duke's bedchamber where everyone had remained. Everyone, that is, except Speaight who had returned to his room, locking the door behind him, to try his best to recover from the foul poison which Finlay had given him.
Mr. Punch had been clear that he didn't want Lennie talking to the woman who'd stolen her name. Though he'd only known Lennie for less than an hour, he felt protective of her. After all, she was Julian's half-sister--presuming she could be believed--and, therefore, something of a sister, by way of genetic composition, to Mr. Punch as well. Once they'd gotten Baron Lensdown to leave and return to his rattled wife, Lennie was insistent that before anyone else should see "Ellen," she should have a chance to do so.
"Ain't no good can come of it." Punch pleaded. "All she'll do is hurt ya even more."
"I can appreciate that you want to protect me." Lennie replied earnestly. "Frankly, since Father--well...you know--since he died, I've not felt that anyone wanted to act in my best interest."
"Lennie," Robert began. "His Grace and I both wish to see you well and happy. And, most of all, safe. You know as well as we do--perhaps even more so--how dangerous this woman is. Whether she's called Ellen Barrett or Orpha Polk, she's a devil, and she'll only so you harm. I think we'd be wise to simply go to the stables and demand that she turn herself over to us."
"Sir," Charles spoke up. "Do you really suspect that Johnny Donnan is going to hand his daughter over to you? Especially since, I'm sure, he thought her dead."
"But, that woman ain't his daughter!' Punch snapped.
"He doesn't know that, Your Grace." Charles replied.
"Then, we oughta just go and tell 'im. That's it."
"I sincerely doubt he'll believe us." Robert sighed. "He seems the sort to be mistrustful of those he thinks wish to overpower him."
"He liked the Duchess of Fallbridge well 'nough." Punch muttered.
"The doctor is correct," Lennie continued. "What little I know of Johnny Donnan indicates to me that he's quite difficult and that his initial reaction to anything is to become violent."
"All the more reason that you should be spared such..." Mr. Punch began.
"Your Grace..." Lennie shook her head. "I've had many years experience in dealing with this woman."
"Maybe so." Robert interjected. "However, it's always been on her own terms. Your interaction was guided by her design, I don't know how she'd manage it if you tried to intervene. And, let's not forget that you've had no dealings with Johnny."
"I can handle myself."
"Clearly you can't!" Mr. Punch sputtered. "I'm sorry, but you can't. If you could, you'd not be in this situation in the first place. You went and handed your name over to this woman after she only suggested it. Now, I know you was mournin' and grievin' and confused, but we already seen that she can fool ya into doin' what she wants. I'd hate for her to do the same again."
"I don't want to sound cruel." Mr. Punch said softly.
"No, you don't. I'm beginning to understand you, Your Grace."
"Do call me, Mr. Punch."
Lennie nodded. "I'll try. As I learn to trust you, you must also learn to trust me."
Mr. Punch snorted.
"Let's see what Lennie suggests." Robert conceded.
And, so, they ended up walking to the stables--Lennie prepared to face the woman who had taken her name. Mr. Punch didn't care for Lennie's plan at all. Robert was also unenthusiastic but accepted the fact that it was the best possible approach. And, Charles, well--he was rather interested in seeing how it would all work. He was beginning to have a new respect for Lennie. Once she stopped her manic crying, she'd begun to show herself as a sensible woman. Charles was curious to see if it would last.
As Lennie opened the stable door and charged inside, Charles was about to have his chance to see if her streak of sensibility would continue. Robert, Punch and Charles all huddled near the open door and waited.
Upon the first scream, Punch knew he had been right.
Did you miss Chapters 1-170 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 172.