Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mastery of Design: An Edith and Nelson Dawson Brooch, 1900

Edith and Nelson Dawson
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve looked at several examples of the fine enameled jewelry created in the early Twentieth Century by Nelson Dawson and his wife Edith, a watercolorist. The duo first exhibited their handsome jewelry in 1899 and earned raves for their subtle botanical themes. 

This brooch with its silver openwork and enameled floral plaque is a great example of their work. Made in 1900, the silver frame of the brooch is set with amethysts which compliment the stylized iris on the enamel inset. The soft, natural feel of this brooch neatly summarizes the Dawsons’ aesthetic.

The Home Beautiful: The Queen’s Dressing Room at Windsor Castle, 1847

The Queen's Dressing Room at Windsor Castle
Watercolor, 1847
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Victoria often commissioned favorite artists to create topographical studies in watercolor of the interiors of the Royal residences to serve as records of the appointment of the interiors. The Royal Collection contains many such watercolors from Buckingham Palace, Balmoral, Sandringham, Osbrone House, York Cottage and Windsor Castle. Some of them are unsigned.

This is one of them. We don’t know the artist who created this handsome record, but we do know that it dates to 1847. The sketch shows Queen Victoria’s private dressing room in Windsor Castle. Let’s just think about that fact for a moment. Can you picture Her Majesty Queen Victoria seated at her vanity? Can you see her donning her mourning black in that lovely little room? This is, perhaps, our only opportunity to see such a personal space.

At the Music Hall: If Love Were All, 1929

Image from "When Legends Gather."

I believe in doing what I can
In crying when I must
In laughing when I choose
Hey ho, if love were all
I should be lonely.

I believe the more you love a man,
The more you give your trust,
The more you're bound to lose.

Although when shadows fall
I think if only
Somebody splendid really needed me
Someone affectionate and dear
Cares would be ended if I knew that he
Wanted to have me near.

But I believe that since my life began
The most I've had is just a talent to amuse.
Hey ho, if love were all. 

Noël Coward published “If Love Were All” in 1929. He’d written this self-conscious song of loneliness for the operetta, “Bitter Sweet.” Many feel that the lyrics are somewhat autobiographical and speak of Coward’s thoughts of his own life. The song also had great meaning for Judy Garland who performed it as part of her Carnegie Hall shows. 

Unusual Artifacts: The Crichton Vinaigrette, 1885-1886

G.&M. Crichton
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A Vinaigrette was used to hold an aromatic substance. Usually, the vinaigrette was worn, suspended from a chain, cord or ribbon around the throat. Sometimes, it could take the form of a brooch or a hand-held ornament.

This example was made around 1886 in Scotland by the Edinburgh jewelery firm G&M Crichton who had earlier made quite a splash at the London Exhibition of 1872. While Crichton’s designs were praised overall at the exhibition, some critics felt that the Highland brooches were a bit too “extravagant” in detail.

When this brooch was made, Scotland and all things Scottish were quite fashionable due to the earlier poetry of Sir Walter Scott and the public admiration for the land shown by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Scottish pebble jewelry was quite in demand. While the majority of these Scottish agate pieces came back to England as souvenirs of Scotland, some examples were made in Birmingham to meet the high demand. Birmingham jewelers would mimic the style of the Scottish jewels, employing stones collected in Scotland.

This vinaigrette shows the variety of attractive stones native to Scotland. Citrines, amethysts, bloodstone, mottled jasper and banded agate are set into silver. The reverse is marked for G.&M. Crichton with hallmarks for 1885 to 1886.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 213

Chapter 213
Great Ladies 

Lennie, leaving Lady Lensdown in the morning room, hurried into the foyer and cleared her throat so that Speaight would turn around.

“Miss Molliner,” Speaight nodded. “Lady Hamish has expressed desire to see His Grace, however, as I’ve explained, the Duke and Dr. Halifax are not receiving this evening.”

“Can you help me?” Lady Constance pleaded, looking at Lennie past Speaight.

“Do come in.” Lennie nodded.

Speaight frowned as he opened to door wider for Lady Constance.

“Miss Molliner,” Speaight said briskly, “Charles will be…”

“The dressing gong. I know. Thank you, Speaight. Lady Constance will not be long.”

“Yes, Miss.” Speaight replied stiffly before retreating to the service stairs.

“I’m Lennie Molliner.” Lennie smiled.

“Yes.” Lady Contance answered ansently. “Lady Hamish. You may call me Constance.”

“I’d like to invite you in, Lady Constance,” Lennie said quickly, “however, we’re…”

“I know what you’re doing.” Lady Constance replied. “I must speak to His Grace.”

“I can tell His Grace that you’ve come and relay any message you wish.”

“You won’t let me see him.”

“No. I’m sorry.” Lennie answered.

“Very well, you can tell him that my daughter has been abducted.” Lady Constance snapped.

“Your…” Lennie gasped. “Oh…I’m…”

“Don’t look so shocked, Miss Molliner. Great ladies bear children out of wedlock all the time. If they didn’t, you’d not be…” She stopped. “I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

Lennie nodded. She took a deep breath. “I’ll be sure to tell my brother at once. Did you hope that His Grace might be of some assistance?”

“No.” Lady Constance shook her head. “I wanted to warn him.”

“About? Do you know of some greater threat to Colin?”


“If you do, I must insist you tell me.”

“I cannot say that I know any specific danger to your nephew.” Lady Constance replied.

“I don’t understand what you want us to do.” Lennie said softly. “Do you know who has taken your child?”

“No.” Constance lied. She knew very well that Orpha Polk had taken her daughter, Fern. She also knew that, as Orpha said, she had “no choice” but to cooperate with the woman. She hated what she was about to do, but since Orpha had promised that as long as Constance did as she was told, Orpha wouldn’t harm her daughter and would also stop her campaign against the Duke…or so the vicious woman had claimed.

“I know only that the captor has also stolen other children than my Fern.” Constance continued.


“The children of the Baron Lensdown.”

Suddenly, the morning room door flew open and Lady Lensdown came charging out.

Lady Constance looked shocked.

“What?” Gertrude demanded. “What is this? Where are my children?”

“I don’t know.” Lady Constance replied quickly.

Lennie looked helplessly between the two women. “I…I’d best alert the Duke.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-212 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 214.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Townshend Panther Ring, 1800-1869

Amethyst Cameo
The Townshend Collection at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s another stone from the important collection of gems amassed by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend. As was the case with all of the stones in the reverend’s collection, this one was set in a ring to showcase the gem, not to be worn. Since this example is double-sided, it’s mounted in a clever gold setting which swivels to expose both sides.

The centerpiece is a lovely amethyst which, on one side, features a cameo of a panther. On the other side, it is carved with a portrait of a bacchante. It’s difficult to say when the stone was carved, but it’s thought to have been between 1800 and 1869. This stone was purchased by Townshend from the collection of H.P. “My Diamond is Cursed” Hope.

Object of the Day: Matthews Bros Furniture

Click image to enlarge.

What I really like about today’s antique trade card is that actually pertains to the product being sold. Produced by Matthew’s Brothers Furniture of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the card features an illustration commissioned specifically for the firm. We are treated to a look at an elegant 1890s interior complete with gaslight. Just take a few minutes to really look around the room.

I enjoy these interior drawings because I find it comforting to see all of the things about which I write in use. This is a really great reminder that all of these things were really used by people. They were part of the home, they were part of life, they were touched and an integral part of each day. To me, that’s pretty neat.

The Matthews Brothers decided to let this interior speak for itself and showcase the sort of products and furnishings they were selling. There’s no overwrought ad copy on the back, and, I think it serves its purpose perfectly.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mastery of Design: A René Bouvet Brooch, 1902

Click on Image to Enlarge
Brooch by Rene Bouvet
France, 1902
The British Museum

This brooch takes the form of a head in profile and is wholly turn of the Twentieth Century in design. It’s as if it’s the poster child for Edwardian jewelry and I love it!

Made in 1902, the head is adorned with flowing hair of chased gold, a face of coral and a cap of mother-of-pearl. It’s set with diamonds, rubies and a pearl drop. This masterpiece was made by René Bouvet though for many years, it was credited mistakenly to Rene Beaudouin.

Print of the Day: Votaries of Fashion in the Temple of Folly, 1808

Click Image to Enlarge
Votaries of Fashion in the Temple of Folly
Tegg, 1808
The British Museum

This satirical print dates to 1808 and is entitled, “Votaries of Fashion in the Temple of Folly.” The hand-colored print was made by Thomas Rowlandson after an original by George Moutard Woodward, and published in London by Thomas Tegg.

The print served as the frontispiece to The “Chesterfield Travestie; Or, School for Modern Manners. Embellished with Ten Caricatures, Engraved by Woodward from original Drawings by Rowlandson [sic] . . . 1808.”

In the composition, Folly, a woman of fashion, is enthroned beneath a canopy. She has donned a fool’s motley and holds the bauble of a jester. She’s joined by a Punchinello as a crowd forms to stare at them in the sumptuous room.

Friday Fun: Rolly Polly

Mr. Punch battles a particularly ferocious-looking devil in this clip from a Royal Norfolk show.  I don’t know who the Professor is, but he’s doing a great job!

Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle.  The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.  

So, here's this week's riddle.  We ask that you don't Google the answer.  Mr. Punch would not find that sporting at all.  Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.  Here we go... No cheating...

Old Mother Twitchett had but one eye,
And a long tail which she let fly;
And every time she went over a gap,
She left a bit of her tail in a trap.

And, the answer is a needle and thread.

Everyone did a great job. We had answers from Popeye-lore to Gene's mother-in-law and, even Ethel Merman. But, it was Shawn who wrote in with the "right" answer. Well dome! Come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.

Mr. Punch wants you to always know “the way to do it,” so why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store.  

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 212

Chapter 212 
Not Receiving 

I’m terribly sorry, Lady Lensdown,” Speaight said politely as Gertrude craned her neck to look past the butler and into the hallway of No. 65 Belgrave Square, “however, His Grace the Duke and Dr. Halifax are not receiving this evening.”

“I wouldn’t wish to intrude, except that I come with terribly urgent information, Speaight.” Lady Lensdown said meekly.

“I truly regret to tell you, Lady Lensdown.” Speaight shook his head. He repeated, “His Grace and Dr. Halifax are not receiving this evening.”

“I simply must speak to them, Speaight.” Gertrude pleaded.

“Might I give them a message for you, Your Ladyship?”

“No.” Gertrude shook her head. “They’ve no way to reach me and I can’t think when I’ll be able to come out alone again. I…” She sighed.

“What’s this, Speaight?” Lennie asked from behind the butler as she descended the stairs. She shuffled to the front door and smiled at Gertrude. “Have we a visitor?”

“Miss, Lady Lensdown has paid a call on His Grace and Dr. Halifax, however, the masters are not receiving this evening.”

“I see.” Lennie nodded. She looked gently at Lady Lensdown, “Perhaps I could tell my brother why you’ve visited?”

Lady Lensdown began to look hopeful. “Well, I could speak with you, if you please.”

“Of course,” Lennie nodded. “Speaight, I shall take Lady Lensdown to the Morning Room.”

“Miss,” Speaight said quietly. “His Grace and Dr. Halifax have given strict instructions not to allow entrance to anyone this evening.”

“I understand, Speaight.” Lennie smiled. “You’ve done very well in following your orders. I shall take all of the blame for this.”

Speaight snorted, and, then, biting his cheeks, nodded gravely.

“The Morning Room is just past the stairs.” Lennie gestured.

“Will you require anything else?” Speaight asked curtly.

“I don’t think so.” Lennie shook her head. “Thank you.”

“Charles will be ringing the dressing gong shortly.” Speaight added.

“I shall listen for it.” Lennie smiled as she ushered Lady Lensdown into the Morning Room.

When the door had closed behind the two women, Speaight let his frown fall to his chin. Taking a deep breath, he grumbled and made his way toward the door to the service stairs.

In the Morning Room, Lady Lensdown looked awkwardly and shyly at Lennie. “He’s very loyal, your Speaight.”

“I’m learning that my brother seems to inspire loyalty in everyone.” Lennie replied proudly. “The entire staff—now—is equally loyal to His Grace. Even Her Majesty has shown loyalty to the Duke. It’s really quite extraordinary.”

“It’s in that spirit of loyalty that I’ve come tonight, Lady Fallbridge.”

Lennie blushed. “Uh. I’m…not called…Fallbridge.”

“Oh, certainly,” Gertrude blushed as well. “I’m sorry…Lady Molliner.”

“I…uhh…just ‘Miss.’ Lennie, please.”

“As you wish.” Gertrude nodded, embarrassed. “I’m the Baroness Lensdown. Gertrude, if you will, Miss Molliner.”

They nodded awkwardly at one another.

Finally, Lennie spoke up. “I’m still rather getting accustomed to the name myself.”


“And, Lennie. I’ve had so many names…I…” She paused. “Isn’t this a rather peculiar introduction?” She giggled.

“Yet, a pleasant one.” Gertrude replied. “And, I am grateful to you for seeing me despite Speaight’s clear objections.”

“While we may not know one another, Lady Lensdown, my brother speaks so highly of you that I knew at once that you’d not press an issue had you not had a good reason.”

“That’s just it, Miss Molliner.” Lady Lensdown replied. “I don’t know if I’ve a good reason or not. It is simply that I have a strange feeling and I thought it best to share what little I know with His Grace.”

“For what have you this feeling, Lady Lensdown?”

“Today, while at Mivart’s at tea, I saw Lady Hamish…”

“She’s the daughter of the woman who was killed at Grange Molliner?”

“Yes. Constance, Lady Hamish. Her mother was Martha. I’d known her since I was a girl. She was older than I, of course, yet, our parents were social, and so, I saw her often. I long called her my friend though, now that I recall it, she was always rather cruel to me. Still, to see someone you’ve known all your life meet such an end…”

“Oh,” Lennie said softly. “His Grace told me that you were the one who found her. I’m so terribly sorry.”

“Thank you,” Gertrude shook her head.

“And, her daughter must be distraught. You say that you saw Lady Constance out today?”

“Yes.” Gertrude continued. “She was out having tea.”

“Strange, perhaps, for a young woman so recently bereaved.” Lennie replied.

“That is not the strangest part. Her companion was a woman. A familiar looking woman.”

“Who was it?”

“She looked very much like the woman who masqueraded as…well, as you, Miss Molliner.”

Lennie took a deep breath. “I’m sad to say that the woman in question is here in London. My brother and Dr. Halifax had the great misfortune of seeing her. That’s, in large part, the reason why Speaight is so adamant that no one gain admittance to the house tonight.”

“I understand.” Gertrude nodded.

“That is queer, though, is it not? What business could Orpha Polk—that’s what she’s called, really—have with the daughter of the Countess Hamish? The only thing they have in common is that they’ve both taken the same lover, as far as His Grace tells me…” Lennie trailed off, suddenly aware of what she’d just said. She blushed.

“I know of my husband’s many infidelities, Miss Molliner. You’ve not shocked me.” Gertrude replied dryly. “I’ve long known. And, I am aware of his associations with both of those women. They’re just two of many women, and, frankly…men as well.”

“I see.” Lennie said softly.

“You mustn’t look so sad for me, my dear.” Gertrude smiled.

Lennie nodded.

“I really am not as weak as rumored.” Gertrude continued.

“I’ve no doubt of that.” Lennie smiled.

“I never truly thought I’d have a husband, not to mention children. I married late in life. I knew why Victor married me. He made no secret of it. Yet, I didn’t mind because I had desires of my own. I wanted children and I knew he would give me beautiful children. He did. They’re my light. Even if they are a bit like their father. Children aren’t always like their parents. I had hoped…” She stopped. “But, enough of that.”

“You raise an interesting point, Lady Lensdown. It’s something about which I often wonder, especially of late.” She, too, paused for a moment. Finally, she said, “Tell me, what sort of woman is this Lady Constance? You’d said her mother was cruel. Is she as well?”

“No, not especially. She was easily influenced by her mother and would often, when in the presence of the Countess, affect her mother’s mannerisms. In her heart, however, Constance is a decent enough girl with a good heart. At her worst, she is confused and lonely, but, she’s not incapable of good works.”

“I can’t say the same of Orpha Polk. She’s most demented, I’m afraid.”

“That’s what I understand,” Gertrude replied. “I can’t imagine what would bring the two of them together. I tried to innocently suggest my shock to my husband who was also with me, but, not surprisingly, he ordered me not to speak of it, let alone think of it.”

“Where is your husband now?”

“At his club, or, so he says. I took the opportunity to come here and warn the Duke that that awful woman was here. I’m not sure if I’m relieved or saddened that he already knew. I’d hate to think of anyone doing harm to His Grace. For so long, he seemed so frail and frightened. I understood him--though we never really spoke to one another--because he was like me. Yet, when he returned from America with the doctor, he was…well, it was as if he was an entirely different man.”

“Very much so,” Lennie nodded, trying not to smile.

“And, still, I like him all the more now. He’s quite honest and charming. Almost like a boy in a man’s body.”

“I think he fancies himself to be rather canine as well.” Lennie confessed.

“I could see that.” Gertrude responded. “He is rather like a dog—I mean that kindly. It’s flattering, really. He’s got those bright eyes and that fresh eagerness. He’s glad of his surroundings and company no matter where or with whom he is. I’m not sure why I feel the need to protect him. Perhaps it’s because I’m a mother. Perhaps he reminds me of my own children. Or perhaps I wish my own children were more like him.”

“I would guess that’s why we’re all loyal to His Grace. I confess, I’ve only known him a short while, and I’m proud to call him my brother.”

“You should be, my dear.” Gertrude nodded. “Now, will you tell him what I’ve said?”

“I think you should tell him yourself.” Lennie replied. “He’s just up in the library with Robert. I’ve no doubt that they’d be pleased to see you even if to bring such a warning.”

“No, no.” Gertrude shook her head. “I must go. I’ve already been gone longer than I intended. I can’t risk being found out. You tell them, Miss Molliner. I do hope it’s nothing, but…I simply thought they should know.”

“Are you sure you won’t stay?”

“I wish that I could. Perhaps another time when we may have an afternoon to chat. Though I come with odd news, I…I am grateful that this allowed us an introduction.”

“I am, too, Lady Lensdown.” Lennie smiled. “I’ve lacked female company for so long. I should much enjoy more conversations with you.”

“As would I.” Gertrude said. She glanced at the clock which hung on the far wall of the Morning Room. “I must go.”

“I’ll show you out.” Lennie said.

Just then, they heard Speaight walking through the hall. Lennie opened the Morning Room door to see Speaight opening the tall front door.

“I should like to see His Grace,” A woman’s voice said. Lennie could not see who stood there, but she didn’t have to wait long to find out.

“I regret to inform you, Lady Hamish, but His Grace the Duke and Dr. Halifax are not receiving visitors this evening.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-211 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 213.

Drawing of the Day: Punchinellos with Monkey and a Dead Chicken, c. 1795

Click image to enlarge.

Punchinellos with a Monkey on a Donkey Holding a Dead Chicken
Domenico Tiepolo, 1791-1804
The British Museum

We’ve seen the works of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo before and I much enjoy his Punchinello scenes.  But, we've not looked at the work of Domenico Tiepolo previously.  Domenico was the son of Giovanni Battista, and, like his father, the younger Tiepolo gave us many drawings of Punchinellos, often in groups, and often, as a Punchinello is wont to do, up to mischief.

This drawing from 1791 to 1804 depicts a group of Punchinellos with a monkey who’s holding a dead chicken on a donkey. 

I want to reinforce how wonderful this is...

It's PUNCHINELLOS with a MONKEY on a DONKEY and the monkey on the donkey is holding a DEAD CHICKEN.

It's as if all my dreams came true.

I confess, I initially read the title of the drawing as being “Punchinellos with a Dead Monkey.” This is, however, just as intriguing. 

In true Venetian style, beyond the figures, we see a view of a town. Like most of  the Tiepolos' Punchinello drawings, this one is created in pen and brown ink with ochre wash, over black chalk.

Was this a study for a painting? Perhaps. Tiepolo, in this work, shows that he was influenced by German artist Johann Elias Ridinger and his “Paradeis” series. Tiepolo often borrowed figures of animals from Ridinger’s works. If this was intended as a study for a painting, there’s no evidence of the finished product. The British Museum acquired this piece in 1925.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Punchinello, 1750

Bow Porcelain Factory
England, c. 1750
The British Museum

Made in Bow at the Factory of the Bow China Works, this glazed figure of soft-paste porcelain dates to 1750 and depicts Punchinello. He stands, almost in profile, on a shallow, square base. Punchinello’s hunchback is supported by a tree trunk. This bit of the figure is unglazed to contrast the texture of the tree with the shimmer of Mr. Punch. In a way, this serves to make the grayish white figure all the more alive.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Bertie Savante

“I’m simply trying to raise the issue of the Faustian implications of the protagonist’s development.  That, and, I want a cookie.”

Image:  Les Femmes Savantes, 1845, Charles Leslie (1794-1859), Given by John Sheepshanks to The Victoria & Albert Museum.  

You know you want to have a Bertie Dog mug, tee-shirt, tote bag or water bottle. You know you do. So, take a look at our online store. 

Mastery of Design: The Canary Giardinetti, 1730-1760

Giardinetti Ring
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Since the weather, for most of us, has turned chilly, I thought that today we should look at objects which brought to mind the colors and warmth of spring. What better than a giardinetti (little garden) ring? Such jewels were quite fashionable during the first three quarters of the Eighteenth Century. 

This one, made somewhere in Europe between 1730 and 1760, boasts a gold openwork bezel styled as a flower. The ring is set with a table-cut yellow diamond surrounded by rubies and emeralds. Chased scrolling adorns the openwork shoulders—each of which is set with a twinkling brilliant-cut diamond. 

Figure of the Day: Winter and Spring, 1759-1769

Figure Group
Chelsea, England
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This figure group in soft-paste porcelain, enamels and gilding, depicts a skating man—a representation of Winter—and a woman who gathers flowers into her apron. Of course, she represents Spring. The holly bush behind them, an evergreen, joins them together.

The group, made by the Chelsea Porcelain Factory between 1759 and 1769 demonstrates the fine quality of the masterful porcelain pieces which were produced in England during the mid-Eighteenth Century. Mimicking the French fashion, manufactures such as the Chelsea Factory were able to create exceptional pieces with the brilliant-hued enamels which were so fashionable at the time. In true Rococo style, the base features graceful curves and applied foliage.

This group was a pair with another representing Summer and Autumn.

Sculpture of the Day: Primavera, 1926

Louis Richard Garbe, 1926
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Perhaps the most ambitious sculpture undertaken by Louis Richard Garbe (1876-1957), “Primavera” is carved entirely from ivory. It’s a masterful work which shows off Garbe’s skills expertly, featuring a combination of techniques: relief, piercing, architectural carving and free-standing full figures.

This representation of Spring depicts Flora with her attribute of a bouquet of flowers. She’s flanked by columns surmounted by more diminutive figures. One is a man with a lute, the other is a singing female figure. The Sun is represented at the top, merging through the clouds, and just above a frieze of nudes with flowers. The figure of Flora is being overtaken by a relief of the west wind of Spring, Zephyr and a bas relief of a shepherd who gives audience to Pan who is perched in a tree. Pierced adornment of animals and foliage becomes obvious when studying the gilt background.

Garbe created this piece at a time when ivory carving was not in favor. The fashion for ivory had diminished considerably toward the start of the 20th Century, and, by 1926, when Garbe made “Primavera,” “The Studio,” Magazine had already declared twenty years earlier that the only suitable use for the medium was for 'billiard balls, false teeth and cutlery.”

Yet Garbe persevered and is considered as a pioneer in reviving the art of ivory carving. His ivory pieces, starting in 1924, were displayed regularly at the Royal Academy.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 211

Chapter 211
Family Bonds 

Thank you for agreeing to see me,” Orpha smiled at Lady Constance. “I know it must be difficult for you, in this, your time of mourning.”

Lady Constance scowled. “Your letter sounded so…plaintiff and urgent. I still wonder why I’m here. I suppose I was curious. What should I call you, Miss? You’re not really Ellen Barrett.”

“My name is Orpha Polk.”

“Why did you send for me, Miss Polk?” Lady Constance asked softly.

“I’ve been very busy of late.” The former Ellen Barrett sighed.

“Being resurrected can be quite taxing, I’ve heard.” Lady Constance sniffed.

“Yes.” Orpha smiled. “As can committing murder.”

“So I understand,” Lady Constance nodded.

“I don’t wish to bore you, Lady Constance. So, I shall try to be as brief as possible. Since the Duke of Fallbridge has been reunited with his true half-sister and since my little scheme to deceive him failed, I’ve had some time to think about my behavior of the last few years.”


“I wasn’t as clever as I thought.”

“Few of us are.” Lady Constance replied. “How does this concern me?”

“I’ve always been looking for comfort.” Orpha continued. “The life of a girl in a workhouse lacks a certain amount of comfort.”

“I can imagine.”

“Having no family is also tiresome.”

“Family is often over-rated.” Lady Constance shrugged.

“That rather depends on the family, doesn’t it?” Orpha smiled. “During my childhood, I was aware that I had a brother. But, we’d been taken from each other. I longed for him. I…”

“You decided that if you were to have a brother, it ought to be a wealthy one? So, you set your eyes on the ‘mad” Duke.”

“Not exactly.” Orpha shook her head. “I only decided that when the opportunity presented itself. When the true Ellen Barrett learned of her parentage, I seized the opportunity. It seemed the only way to reach my ultimate dream.”

“Which was? Wealth? Position? Power?”

“Somewhat. I’d not turn my nose up at any of those things. However, they were just a path to realizing my true ambition.”


“Being reunited with my family.”

“You’ve just said you have no family. That you’d been taken from them.”

“Near me.” Orpha said firmly.

“Again, Miss Polk, what has any of this to do with me?”

“I know you murdered your mother, the Countess Hamish.” Orpha smiled.

“You know nothing of the sort.”

“Come now, Lady Constance, have you forgotten to whom you’re speaking? I was there! I have ties to the whole sordid series of events. I set them in motion, in fact. You should thank me. Were it not for the stage which I set for you, you’d not have had a chance to realize one of your own dreams.”

“Why would I kill my own mother?” Lady Constance growled. “Doing so essentially separates me from my wealth. The entail insists that my rightful inheritance be given to the next male heir. My mother’s death only hurts me.”

“And, that’s your excuse. That’s your claim to innocence. But, it’s not the Hamish wealth which motivates you. We both know that you’re hardly destitute. You’ve a handsome trust from your late father. You will live in luxury until your end.”

Lady Constance raised her eyebrows.

“There was something much more important which motivated you that night. As I said, I dressed the stage. Finlay and I had already left a trail of blood. You saw your chance to rid yourself of that vicious burden, your mother. Furthermore, you had a chance to upset Lady Gertrude. That was just an extra bit of luck, but one, I’m sure you enjoyed as you saw her discover the mutilated corpse of her old friend.”

“Keep your voice down.” Lady Constance hissed.

“Am I mistaken?”

Lady Constance remained silent.

“Even more so important was the next phase of your scheme. You wanted the Baron Lensdown to take the blame for the murder. However, that didn’t quite work out for you. Did it?”

“Is he in prison?”

“No.” Orpha shook her head.

“Then, obviously not.”

“Dear Lady Constance, you needn’t blush…”

“I’m not.” Constance snapped.

“I know of your association with the Baron. I know also how foul he can be.”

“I’m sure you do.”

“He’s quite treacherous. How did he manage to wriggle his way out of your demand?”

“He made his position clear to me.” Lady Constance replied.

“He threatened you, then?” Orpha nodded. “He’s quite good at it. I know how dangerous he can be. Sometimes I loved him for it. Other times, I tried to think of anything else. For a time, I’d actually begun to forget who I really was. I’d begun to feel that I really was Ellen Barrett, and that poor, poor, lunatic man—Roger—was my family. You know, of course, what the baron did to Roger.”

“I know.” Lady Constance nodded. “I know of all of his past associations. Including you and the Scotch footman.”

“I know of them, too.” Orpha winked. “I know also of your daughter. I believe you call her Fern.”

“What do you know of it?” Lady Constance hissed.

“Much.” Orpha sighed. “More than I ever wished to. You see, I saw the baron earlier. He told me that you claim Fern is his child. Is she?”

“Of course.” Lady Constance narrowed her eyes. “So, you continue your association with the blackguard.”

“To my own ends,” Orpha shook her head. “I shall explain in a moment. My dear, I’m really only trying to be your friend. I know what you’ve endured better than anyone could ever understand it. You wanted a name for your child. But, your mother, the Countess, just wanted to be rid of her, I presume. A family embarrassment. Wasn’t it her wish to see the Duke of Fallbridge adopt the girl?”

“Yes.” Constance replied angrily. “I couldn’t have that. I…”

“So, you rid yourself of the problem.” Orpha winked again. “I would, too.”

Lady Constance shook her head. “What do you want of me?”

“An ear to listen. A shoulder upon which to lean. Constance, we’ve much to offer one another. We’ve survived so many of the same things.”

“Just because we shared a lover once…”

“The father of our children.” Orpha whispered.


“I, too, have a child. A boy. Lensdown is his father. My boy is not as…he’s not as pretty as your Fern.”

“Where is he?”

“In a special place where he can be cared for.”

“Cared for? Is he ill?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“What ails him?”

“Much.” Orpha answered. “He’s a monster. It was to be expected.”


“The child of a brother and sister is often a monster.” Orpha replied.

“I…I don’t understand.” Lady Constance pushed away from the table.

“Victor Geddes…the man who became the Baron Lensdown, the man who turned Roger Barrett into a madman, the man who has tortured both of us and countless others—he is my brother. He was born Victor Polk. Geddes was the name of the family who took him in.”

“Your brother?”


“How long have you known this?”

“I’ve always known.” Orpha smiled. “I’ve known since the day we were separated. I, sent to one workhouse, he another. I came out to be what I am. And, he, the same. We’re both frauds in one way or another.”

“And, yet, you…you…”

“Oh, yes.” Orpha nodded.

“Did he know? Does he know that…that you’re his sister?”

“No. Though I don’t think it would have stopped him.”

“How? How could you have…”

Orpha sighed. “I suppose I’m just a bit mad myself. You can use that to your advantage, Lady Constance. You’re not mad. You were trapped. You did what was needed to free yourself and your little Fern. That’s strength, some would say, but not madness.”

“You are. You are mad.” Lady Constance shook her head.

“Well, sometimes it serves me well.” Orpha nodded. “It can do the same for you, too.”

“How? Why?”

“For our children. Don’t think me a failure, Lady Constance. Yes, one scheme of mine failed. I should have known the Duke was too well-protected for it to work. I’ve already set another in motion with two others. They think I’m doing it help them, too, but it’s only meant as a distraction. Only you know of my true ambition. To be a mother—even if only to a monster.”

“I pity you.” Lady Constance gasped.

“Please don’t.” Orpha smiled. “Join me. Join me, Lady Constance. Help me destroy Victor Geddes, my brother.”

“I can’t.” Lady Constance shook her head.

“Why not?” Orpha frowned. “I know you loathe him, too.”

“You said you’ve another scheme involving the Duke of Fallbridge. I want no harm to come to him or his family. I like them so. I truly do.”

“Everyone does.” Orpha shrugged. “I can’t see why. But, if I can assure you that I’ll spare them from any harm, will you join me?”


“They were only being used as tools anyway.” Orpha continued.

“Why should I believe you?” Lady Constance asked.

“Because you have no choice.” Orpha smiled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-20 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 212.