Standing in the Abbey
Mr. Punch closed the music box and sighed. He began to chatter softly to himself. “For Queen and country, they say. Like the Queen, I do. Nice lady. Smells like boiled sweeties. Likes her dogs, she does. A good lady with lots of babies, she has. Dunno. Dunno. Dunno.”
“Dear Punch,” Robert smiled, patting the other side of the settee on which he sat in the library of No. 65 Belgrave Square. “Come sit next to me so we may talk.”
“What’s to talk about?” Punch shrugged. “Don’t see as we have much choice.”
“Come and sit with me,” Robert said softly. “The house is quiet. Colin’s asleep. The staff has retired for the evening. Even Dog Toby is resting. And, I suspect that he thinks that you should as well.”
Punch looked at the terrier who was snoring softly—nestled into one of the plush chairs near the fire.
“He does want me to be still, don’t he?” Punch mumbled.
“He does.” Robert grinned.
Punch scurried to the settee and plopped down next to Robert.
“See,” He continued, “I knew that when Her Majesty wanted to see us that she had somethin’ what she needed us to do, Chum.”
“I know.” Robert nodded. “I had the same feeling.”
“And, then, she sent us back with that gift, and…”
“You don’t have to do it, dear Punch.” Robert said soothingly. “Her Majesty said that she could get a man from Garrard’s or from Rundell’s.”
“I hate those blokes.” Mr. Punch muttered.
“Do you?” Robert chuckled.
“Well, no.” Punch sighed. “Not really.”
“I’ll go with you, should you decide to do it, my dear.” Robert said.
“Oh, I know.” Punch nodded. “But, it’s a big responsibility, it is.”
“One not out of your abilities.” Robert replied. “Who better than you?”
“Julian.” Punch whispered.
“You possess all of Julian’s knowledge, dear Punch. I’ve seen it myself. You know all that he knows.”
“Still…I ain’t never purchased nothin’ for the Queen.”
“Haven’t you?” Robert smiled. “My dear, I’ve seen you select stones for their Majesties before. Each gem that you’ve set for the Prince Consort or the Queen. You’ve never failed to please them.”
“But, this is an important gem.” Punch muttered.
“All gems are important.” Robert smiled.
“Could it be that you’ve drawn the same conclusion that I have?” Robert asked.
“What conclusion did ya draw, Chum?”
“You know very well.” Robert smiled. “Her Majesty said that a merchant has offered her a rare blue diamond which was imported here from a private collection in America. A blue diamond of considerable size and unusual color.”
“Yep.” Punch sighed. “And, she wants me to decide for her whether or not to buy it. But, Chum, surely it’s our pa’s diamond. Surely it’s the Molliner Blue.”
“I’m sure that it is.” Robert said. “And, if it is, wouldn’t it be grand to think that the stone would end up in the collection of Her Majesty, the Queen? Wouldn’t that please your father to know that his diamond would forever be in the Royal Collection?”
“It’d have pleased ‘im more if it stayed where he put it.” Punch shook his head. “But, thanks to my sister, Barbara, that wasn’t to be.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Robert smiled. “Your father would have been the first to suggest that we trade the diamond for Colin’s freedom.”
Punch took a deep breath.
“My dear, just because the diamond is up for purchase again doesn’t mean that Colin’s in any danger. The initial transaction bought our son’s life. No one can reverse that.”
Tears sprang up in Punch’s eyes. “I hope not.”
“Is that what worries you?” Robert asked.
“Yes.” Punch whispered, wiping his eyes.
“Colin is safe. He’s here with us and this is where he’ll stay until he’s a grown man ready for a life of his own.”
“We traded that young woman the diamond for her son so that we could, in turn, give that baby to Mr. Cage. Mr. Cage simply wanted a male child. He didn’t know that the baby in the cradle was not the same boy. I’ve no doubt that he never noticed a difference. We know that the girl sold the diamond to someone named Cloutier. Doubtlessly, that Cloutier sold the diamond to some merchant who imported the stone here. It’s a stone fit for Royalty. If Her Majesty doesn’t buy it, you know that he’ll shop it to France or Germany. I think we’d prefer that the stone stay in England.”
“I’d prefer that it stay here.” Mr. Punch said quietly. “Here in this house so Colin might have it one day.”
Robert smiled. “I think that might displease the Crown.”
“I s’pose.” Punch replied. “Unless I tell Her Majesty that it’s no good.”
“But, you wouldn’t.”
“No.” Punch sighed.
“So, we’ll meet with the man tomorrow, and that’ll be the end of it.”
“Will it?” Punch asked, becoming emotional again.
“You promise that Colin is safe? That Mr. Cage ain’t gonna come ‘cross the ocean and take him away from us?”
“I promise.” Robert answered.
“I think of it every night when I kiss his little, fuzzy ginger noggin.”
“I know that you do.” Robert nodded. “But, dear Punch, think of Edward Cage. I’ve no doubt that at this very moment, he’s lumbering about one of his waxworks, nowhere near either of his sons, not giving his family any thought. For him, the boys are nothing but an investment. As long as he has them, he’s not going to give them a moment of thought. You saw the last letter from my brother.”
“Sure,” Mr. Punch nodded. “Cecil said that Mr. Cage is openin’ up a new exhibition. Some chamber of horrors.”
“That’s right.” Robert smiled. “So, with that as well as his plantation to preoccupy him, thoughts of babies are quite far from his mind.”
“But, what if one day, when the child grows, he sees that it’s not the same child what he bought from Iolanthe Evangeline?”
“A dark-haired, blue-eyed boy with fair skin.” Robert shook his head. “He didn’t love Colin as we did. He didn’t see anything beyond the child’s existence. He didn’t see when the baby’s first tufts of dark hair fell away to that lush growth of auburn. He didn’t notice the small birthmark on the child’s leg. He didn’t listen to his gurgles and coos or watch Colin sleep. If he had, he’d have noticed the difference immediately. But, he didn’t. Time will only bury any question he may have had.”
“I imagine that’s true.”
“It is.” Robert said emphatically. “Tomorrow, when we look at the diamond, we should think of it as a homecoming of your father’s legacy, a reminder of our joy and triumph. It’s the final chapter in that book.”
Punch nodded again. “Would be nice to think that future Kings and Queens would wear the very diamond what brought Colin back to us. It’d be like part of us bein’ here long after we’re all gone.”
“Imagine some grand Royal wedding. Some blushing prince standing in the Abbey, two hundred years from now. His bride appears and around her neck she wears a magnificent blue diamond.”
“It’s a nice thought.”
“You can make it happen.” Robert said gently.
“And, so I will.” Mr. Punch smiled.
Did you miss Chapters 1-197 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 199.