“Imagine,” Ethel sighed as she sank onto the footstool which was her usual evening spot by the fire. “We got a present from the Queen herself.”
“No we didn’t.” Hutchinson muttered. “The master did.”
Violet smiled, “Hutch, the masters said that Her Majesty sent it as a gift for the whole household.”
“As if the Duke is gonna let us go into the library and listen to the music box whenever we want. They was just bein’ generous. Talkin’ down to us, if you ask me.”
“That ain’t so.” Jenny interrupted.
“Right.” Ethel nodded. “His Grace ain’t never once talked down to one of us.”
“The girl’s tellin’ the truth,” Mrs. Pepper nodded. “Neither His Grace nor Dr. Halifax ain’t never said one word to us what wasn’t sincere.”
“We’re very fortunate to have the Duke of Fallbridge and Dr. Halifax as our masters, Hutchinson.” Speaight warned weakly. “I’ll not have a word against them. Not in my servants’ hall. Perhaps, while you were here alone, you’ve forgotten just how kind they’ve been to us.”
“I ain’t forgotten.” Mr. Hutchinson shrugged. “I’m just being honest. The Duke’s an important man—friend of Their Majesties, a man of wealth and power with a long line of famous names behind him. We ain’t nothin’ to him. I ain’t surprised to hear Ethel and Jenny fussin’ over ‘em, but Violet, I’m surprised. I thought you was more level-headed.”
“I’m very level-headed, Mr. Hutchinson.” Violet snapped, disappointed in the man she’d developed a fancy for. “I know what I seen. When we was in Scotland, the Duke was very generous to all of us. He even let Ethel and Jenny and me wear some of the Fallbridge jewels for the fancy dress ball. When things got bad, both he and Dr. Halifax was right there with us, offerin’ kind words and their help.”
“There’s the word again—generous.” Mr. Hutchinson smirked. “They dote on us like we was…well, like the Duke does that dog. He gives ‘im little bits of food and praise and kind looks, but, in the end, the dog’s still a dog.”
“Not to the Duke, he ain’t.” Ethel spoke up. “He’s like a little person Dog Toby is. And, the Duke ain’t doin’ anythin’ but being kind to us because he cares about us. He always thinks of things to make us happy. Like given us that fine paper and ribbon. Any other man like the Duke might just toss such things in the rubbish, but he realized it’d give us joy. It’s in them little things what we can how good they is.”
“They?” Hutchinson asked.
“The family upstairs.” Jenny answered for Ethel.
“Oh, the family.” Mr. Hutchinson smiled. “Shall we look at the family?”
“I’d be careful if I were you, Mr. Hutchinson.” Mrs. Pepper narrowed her eyes.
“I’m just bein’ honest. Let’s look at the Duke’s family. Sure, his pa were all right though I’ve heard there were quite a few mad Molliners. But, his ma were a queer one, weren’t she? All of London knows of her cruelty and how she was always takin’ lovers from the lower classes. Ain’t that where we got this new sister? What of his other sister? The dead one. Or is she dead? Either way, she jilted some poor baron and fled to America. I heard things about her, I have. And the Duke you all love so well—ain’t he thought of as mad? What of the doctor? His pa was a debtor and his ma was in Bedlam—barkin’. Weren’t that bloke that got killed right outside this very house the doctor’s ol’ lover? So, he ain’t quite the angel you all think he is.”
“That’s enough of that,” Mr. Speaight coughed. “You’d best retire to the mews.”
“Ready to go anyway.” Mr. Hutchinson smiled. He looked at Violet who sniffed and looked away.
They watched him walk out.
“He’s lucky Charles, Gerard and Gamilla weren’t down here to hear ‘im.” Georgie frowned, finally speaking up.
“I should say so, my boy.” Mrs. Pepper nodded firmly.
“Where’d all of that venom come from?” Mr. Speaight shook his head. “He seemed to have mellowed a bit during our absence. I thought he had, at least. Maybe I was mistaken.”
“I know I was.” Violet muttered.
“We ought to tell His Grace.” Ethel growled.
“And risk insultin’ ‘im?” Mrs. Pepper shook her head. “No. We’ll just have to keep our eyes on Hutchinson and see that he don’t make no mistakes. If he does, then our Mr. Speaight can speak to the masters.”
“And get him the sack.” Jenny added.
“We shall see, Jenny.” Mr. Speaight nodded. “For now, however, let’s put this unpleasantness out of our minds before Charles and Gamilla return. They’ve both been working so terribly hard these past weeks, we should try to greet them with cheer.”
“Sure we will, Mr. Speaight.” Ethel smiled.
“Do you feel up to reading to us tonight, Mr. Speaight?” Mrs. Pepper asked.
“That I do.” Mr. Speaight nodded.
“That’s fine.” Mrs. Pepper smiled.
“We’ll start a new book tonight.” Speaight smiled. “His Grace let me take one from the library. It’s just over there on the sill.”
“I’ll fetch it for you, Sir.” George volunteered.
“Good of you.” Speaight nodded.
Georgie ran over to the far window and grabbed the book. As he did, he noticed Hutchinson in the mews. He appeared to be talking to someone. No, two people. Women.
“Mum?” Georgie called.
“What is it, dear?”
“Come here, please.” George said softly. “I wanna show ya somethin’.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-196 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 198.