Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mastery of Design: Queen Charlotte's Opal Finger Ring, 1810

Queen Charlotte's Opal Finger Ring
England, c. 1810
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection

Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This ring was made circa 1810 for Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III. The appealing jewel is set with pearls around a stunning center opal. The ring was passed through the family to Queen Victoria by the Duchess of Gloucester who inherited the piece following Queen Charlotte’s death.

History's Runway: The Amies Crimson Evening Dress, 1950

Evening Gown
Edwin Hardy Amies
Designed, 1950
Made, 1954
The Victoria & Albert Museum

No Society lady of the 1950s would have been without a wardrobe of sumptuous evening gowns. Draped in these gowns and dripping with jewels, a lady made a statement as she entered a ball or visited the theatre or opera.

Here’s an ideal representation of the evening gowns of the fifties. Designed in 1950 by the London couturier Edwin Hardy Amies (1909–2003), this elegant gown is crafted of crimson silk satin. The shape of the dress is created by a lining of Vilene, a thick material with a paper-like quality. This was quite an innovation, replacing the layers of tulle and silk net petticoats which were traditionally used by French couturiers. Vilene had served Europe well during the fabric rationing of the Second World War, creating volume beneath more expensive materials, without exceeding an individual’s rationed amount of fabric. The sleeveless gown is heavily boned and wired at the bodice with a band of satin at the top. The shoulders are defined by draped straps from the front of the bodice to the back, terminating in a large bow. Two bows on each of the gathered skirt accentuate the hips.

This dress was made for Mrs. Jean Follett Holt in 1954 based on Amies 1950 design. Mrs. Follett Holt is notable as having been the President of The Red Cross, Chelmsford. She wore the dress to The Red Cross Ball in London and was painted wearing the dress in a portrait by Baron Killi di Pauli.

Saturday Silliness: Chicken a la King, 1937

If a chicken sultan had Popeye's voice, this is what would happen.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Delisle Snuffbox, 1743-44

France, 1743-44
This and all related images from
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Another snuffbox from the collection of Sir Arthur and Rosalinde Gilbert, this Eighteenth Century snuffbox was made in France at the apex of the fashionable snuff craze. The box features panels of mother-of-pearl which are carved with a scene of a couple in court dress. They are surrounded by cherubs, which, frankly, I would think a little unnerving. 

The mother-of-pearl panels are reverse painted with landscapes which are now substantially faded and worn. Imagine how vivid they must have looked in 1743 when the box was new. The gold mounts have been decorated with a wave pattern. 

This box is the work of Jacques-André Delisle who joined the goldsmith's guild by letters patent in July of 1718, sponsored by the gold-box maker Pierre de Roussy.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 225

Chapter 225 
Robert and Punch descended the sweeping central staircase, hand-in-hand, Dog Toby trotting happily behind them. Upon entering the morning room, they released one another’s hands when they noticed that Lady Lensdown was already standing at the sideboard.

She stood very still with her hands clasped in front of her. She appeared to be staring at the row of silver-domed platters and tureens which held Mrs. Pepper’s lovingly-prepared breakfast.

Exchanging glances with Punch, Robert cleared his throat, but the sound was not noticed by Lady Lensdown.

“Good morning, Lady Lensdown.” Robert said gently.

“Oh!” She started.

“We hope you were able to sleep a bit,” Punch said, affecting Julian’s voice. He was growing increasingly weary of imitating Julian, especially in his own house. With all of the servants aware of his dual nature, he needn’t pretend for their benefit, but with guests like Constance and Gertrude, he felt the need to continue the pretense though it displeased him enormously. Furthermore, he could sense from within that Julian had grown tired of the charade as well. After all, Julian had entrusted the body to Punch and was quite satisfied with the life of the Duke of Fallbridge. He lived via Punch and was, for the first time, quite content with that. Still, Punch carried on.

“Not really, Your Grace, but thank you.” Lady Lensdown responded.

“Perhaps you can rest after breakfast,” Robert suggested.

“I shan’t rest until my children are returned to me.”

“We’d like to discuss that with you, Lady Lensdown.” Punch continued.

“Please, Your Grace, call me ‘Gertrude.’ At such a time, and as close as circumstances make us, I feel it’s only right.”

“Then, you must call me Robert.”

“And, do call me Punch,” Punch said.

Lady Lensdown raised her eyebrows as Punch grimaced.

“My affectionate name for the Duke,” Robert said quickly, covering Punch’s understandable error. “Many who are close to us have adopted the name for His Grace. My brother and his wife for example refer to His Grace as ‘Punch.’”

“As does my sister, Lennie.” Punch smiled, relieved that Robert had been so quick-thinking. “Even Her Majesty has been known to use the name for me.” He added honestly.

“It’s very charming.” Lady Lensdown nodded.

“Good morning, all.” Lennie said brightly as she came into the morning room behind Punch and Robert, she paused to pat Dog Toby on the head.

Punch smiled at his sister. Though they’d only known one another for a short time, Punch already felt close to her. She was certainly a vast improvement over Lady Barbara, a creature of pure selfishness and ire. Lennie seemed to be the opposite, and, Punch found this quite a relief. He was proud to have a sibling and wanted her to know that. “My dear Lennie, you look quite pretty today.”

“Thank you, Punch.” Lennie replied. She blushed, realizing she’d made a mistake in front of Lady Lensdown.

“You see,” Robert forced a chuckle. “Lennie, we were just explaining my affectionate name for His Grace.”

“Ah, I’ve taken to calling my brother that as well.” Lennie said quickly.

“I do like your new dress, Lennie.” Robert changed the subject. “That color suits you. What’s it called?”

“The dressmaker called it ‘Morning Rose.’ I’d call it ‘pink’ myself. But, I do love it.” She looked at Lady Lensdown. “My new brother has very generously outfitted me with a new wardrobe.”

“I’m not surprised,” Lady Lensdown said softly.

“Oh, Gertrude, you do look weary.” Lennie said, going to her new friend’s side. “Didn’t you sleep at all? Do sit over here by the fire, I shall prepare a plate for you.”

“I couldn’t eat.” Gertrude replied.

“You must.” Robert shook his head. “You must try to keep up your strength.”

“Indeed,” Punch replied, “when your children return to you, they will expect their mother to be strong and well.”

“Very well.” Gertrude nodded.

“Good.” Lennie smiled, walking to the sideboard. “You’ll find Mrs. Pepper’s cooking to be quite restorative.”

“You said, Your Grace…Punch…that you had a scheme to find my children?”

“Yes,” Punch nodded. “Dr. Halifax and I have worked out something which we’re sure will work quite to our advantage. As it concerns Lady Hamish, we’ll shall discuss it when she arrives.”

“Where is Constance?” Gertrude asked dryly.

“She’d sent my man and our under-footman to her residence to fetch some clothes.” Punch replied. “I can’t be sure where she is presently.”

“She’s in her room.” Lennie said. “I saw Violet go in there as I passed by. I think Violet was going to arrange her hair.”

“She can think of hair and dresses with her daughter missing?” Gertrude shook her head. “I’m sure she slept soundly all night. Perhaps she is more like her mother than I thought.” Lady Lensdown clenched her hand into a fist. “Do you think what she said last night is true—about my husband?”

“Yes.” Robert answered hesitantly.

“I don’t mean that her daughter is my husband’s. I’ve not doubt of that. London is filled with my husband’s bastards.” She glanced at Lennie. “Pardon me.”

Lennie smiled.

“I’m referring to the other part—about that Orpha Polk woman being my husband’s sister and…”

“What do you know of the baron’s past?” Robert asked.

“Very little. Only that he married me for money and position. I knew it at the time. However…I was…” She paused. “I was not young. I was not pretty nor quick nor particularly charming. Father insisted that I should marry, and Victor cut a fine figure. He’d convinced my father that he was a prominent man of business, and, as no member of the peerage had shown any interest in me…”

“He never mentioned his childhood?”

“Not really. Only inasmuch as he’d been adopted by a titled, but impoverished, older couple. He claimed he didn’t know from where he came before that.”

“I remember him as a boy.” Punch sighed. “I had no interest in people or their stories, so, I never wondered. I just knew he was from a nearby estate. And, I knew he was cruel.”

“What Orpha claims is very likely true.” Lennie spoke finally. “I would never doubt her ability to be wicked or depraved. She can be very persuasive as well. Look what she convinced me to do. Had I not listened, I could well have been part of this family long ago.”

“So, you think it’s true. They’re siblings.” Gertrude sighed. “You say that this Polk woman is persuasive. Just how much? Could she be manipulating Constance? Is anything that Constance told us true? Are my children…are they…”

“Regardless of what Lady Constance has said,” Robert interrupted, “We shall find your children.”

“How?” Gertrude asked.

“By giving Orpha and her conspirators, Hortence and Eudora Stover, exactly what they want.”

“What do you mean?” Gertrude asked.

“After Punch and I finish our visit at the palace, we shall go to that trio of harpies and meet their demands.”

“You can’t.” Lennie gasped.

“Not to worry, Lennie. I’ve grown bored with being constantly under the thumb of evil. The only way is to bend enough to slip out from underneath.” Punch smiled. “Furthermore, we have some demands of our own. We also have a hidden weapon which will, I think, work in our favor.”

“What?” Lennie asked.

“Miss Stover’s father.” Punch smiled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-224 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them
here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 226.

Print of the Day: Giving Alms, 1840

Click on image to enlarge.

"Giving Alms"
Thomas, 1840
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This print from 1840 by Napoléon Thomas (born 1810, died at some point after that) depicts guests of a fancy dress ball. They’ve paused to give alms to an impoverished woman. How she got into the ball, I'm not quite sure.  But, there she is nonetheless.

Such paintings and prints were fairly standard issue in mid-Nineteenth Century France—part of an attempt by artists to remind their patrons, both elite and middle class, to remember those less fortunate (many of whom were artists). The handsome lithograph is hand-colored and is inscribed “Napon. Thom.” The piece was given by Mr. James Laver, CBE to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1964. 

Object of the Day: Queens Victoria and Mary of Scots

This is a rather curious advertisement. Copyrighted to 1901, this bi-fold chromolithograph depicts Queen Victoria on one side and Mary, Queen of Scots on the other. The folded page opens to reveal historical accounts of each.

Yet, there’s no evident advertisement for a product. Queen Victoria isn’t holding a box of Scrofula tonic. Mary of Scots isn’t standing on a crate of cooked canned corned beef. So, what’s going on here? 

The publishers expected you to read! A novel concept today, but, one that was not out of the question in 1901.

At the very end of it all, we see the following:

     The makers of famous “Queen Quality” shoes have decided to issue a series of portraits of the world’s most famous queens, handsomely lithographed in colors, faithfully reproduced from costly paintings. No effort or expense will be spared to make these undoubtedly the most artistic and valuable portraits of royalty ever issued. 
     The series will have great historical value, and on this account, as well as for their inherent beauty and intrinsic artistic worth, the pictures should be retained carefully by those receiving them, as we propose to issue in each of our subsequent catalogues the portraits of other royal women, as full of interest and as valuable as works of art as these presented with here. 

Well, well, ain’t we lucky? So, you see, this is an insert from the “Queen Quality” shoe catalog of 1901, meant as an incentive to buy and also to make the shoes look peachy keen and fancy. Someone obviously thought enough of this insert to carefully remove it, owing to its preservation for 112 years. I’m quite glad they did as it gave the pages a chance to come here to the house where ephemera comes to live.

In typical Victorian/Edwardian fashion, the copy is overwritten and the product is oversold. While these are nicely printed and attractively glossy, I don’t think Neal Caffrey is going to be trying to steal them anytime soon. But, it’s just that very florid nature which makes me love them all the more.

Click to enlarge.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Revelstoke Bloodstone Box, 1910

Bloodstone, Gold and Diamond Box, c. 1910
Given to HM Queen Mary by Lord Revelstoke, 1910
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This handsome circular box is crafted of bloodstone with shaped sides. The center of the cover is surmounted by a chased gold mount depicting, on a field of flowers, Cupid. The outer edge is set with an undulating band of brilliant-cut diamonds intertwined with an enamel foliate border. The hinges and other mounts are reeded gold.

The box was a birthday gift to Queen Mary, consort of King George V, presented on May 26, 1910 by Lord Revelstoke.

Print of the Day: An Etched Frontispiece from Mr. Punch's Pocketbook, 1872

Click image to enlarge

Frontispiece from "Mr. Punch's Pocketbook"
Charles Keene, 1872
The British Museum

Next Friday, you’ll be seeing another of my Christmas gifts—“Mr. Punch’s Pocketbook” from 1860. So, I thought this week, I’d show you a later example of this pocket-sized almanac to give you a sense of the object. “Mr. Punch’s Pocketbook” was the iPad mini of the Nineteenth Century. It contained everything a gentleman traveling by train could ever need from the names of the Royal Family to the cost of postage. It even was filled with beautiful illustrations, stories, jokes and articles which would keep a gent entertained.

So, today, let’s look at this one from 1872. This example lives at the British Museum. All of Mr. Punch’s Pocketbooks included a frontispiece which unfolded into a trifold scene. In this case, we have an illustration by Charles Keene (1823-1872) which depicts “A Matrimonial Hurlingham” This was a pigeon-shooting match wherein eligible bachelors are the pigeons, and the young ladies shoot. Fair enough. Cupid is assisting the ladies, waiting nearby on the right with a string in his hand to deploy a trap.

Even in 1872, each of this lovely frontispieces was hand-colored with watercolor and touched with white gouache.

I look forward to sharing my own 1860 Pocketbook to you next week. I just have to figure out how best to reproduce it without harming it.

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.  Some week, I may offer a nifty prize from our online store.  (Why do I always say "our" online store, as if I'm more than one person?).  But, this week, I don't feel like it.

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...

And, Angelo, this one is especially for you.

What coat has no buttons?

And, the answer is...


Laughter ensues.  Shawn and, then, by agreeing, Angelo, offered the "correct" answer.  Well done, gentlemen.  As for the rest of you, if you get any more clever, we'll have to bottle your genius and sell it to less witty people.  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.  

Friday Fun: Emanuele Luzzati’s “Pulcinella,” 1973

Regular readers will have seen this short film before.  I shared this with you in 2010, but I love it so much, I thought that, it was time to bring it out again, especially since this year marks the film's fortieth anniversary (and, at the end of this year, mine, too).

Emanuele Luzzati (1921-2007) was one of the foremost Italian animators of his time. A painter, production designer, and film director, Luzzati was inspired by classical theatrical works and music. His short animated film,Pulcinella, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1973. The film shows a scene of perennial trickster, Pulcinella (Mr. Punch’s Italian predecessor) as he struggles with his wife, gets into a little tangle with the law, and embarks on a wild, Punch-like, fantastical spree. The film is set to the music of Il Turco in Italia by Rossini.

This really is quite lovely and charming…

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 224

Chapter 224 


Sir?” Charles smiled as Mr. Punch wriggled while the valet attempted to tie his sable-colored cravat.

“Sorry.” Punch stood still.

“Which pin would His Grace like in his cravat today?” Charles asked.

“Breakfast.” Punch muttered.

“Your Grace?” Charles tilted his head to one side, trying not to laugh.

“I said, ‘breakfast,’” Punch replied with a hint of defeat in his voice. “Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast, breakfast. A lovely breakfast of sausages and boiled eggs and savory mushrooms and beans.” Mr. Punch tapped his feet on the ground.

“You shall have all of that, Sir, and more, I’m sure.” Charles nodded.

“Oh.” Mr. Punch inhaled. “Good.”

“The pin, your Grace?” Charles began.

“Dog Toby wants his breakfast, too.” Punch said brightly, glancing at the terrier who lounged on one of the plush chairs by the hearth.

“Dog Toby’s already had his breakfast. He had some fine mutton when I took him out for his morning routine.” Charles answered.

“Did he?” Punch smiled. “Then, he wants seconds.”

Charles allowed himself to chuckle even though his thoughts weighed upon him heavily. He walked over to fetch the Duke’s jewel case and presented it to Mr. Punch. “Perhaps Your Grace would like to select his own cravat pin.”

“Sparkly,” Punch answered. “Dr. Halifax and I must go to the palace this afternoon for tea.”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

“The Prince wants to present the blue diamond to Her Majesty.” Punch continued. “You know, that were me pa’s diamond.”

“I know, Sir.” Charles nodded.

“Then, we gotta talk with Prince Albert ‘bout them plans for the South Kensington Museum. And, Her Majesty wants to speak with us.”

“I’m sure you’’ll do brilliantly, Your Grace.”

“With all this horrid stuff here…” Punch sighed. “I’m gonna have to rely on you, Charles, to keep them women from actin’ rashly. How I hate to put more on your shoulders.”

“I don’t mind, Sir.” Charles answered, considering, for a moment, telling the Duke of his encounter with Lady Constance. He decided it best to wait until the doctor was also present.

“Lennie’s gonna help,” Punch sighed. “She’s promised to keep them distracted, but, that can’t be easy what with their babies missin’. Should Colin be taken, I’d be inconsolable.”

“I’ve no doubt of it. We all would, Your Grace.”

“Oh, my pin.” Punch said quickly. “Her Majesty always comments favorably on this one.” He reached into the case and removed a stickpin surmounted by an enamel profile of a woman, her diadem set with diamonds and rubies.

“Allow me, Sir.” Charles said gently, taking the pin and affixing it to the cravat.

“Thank you,” Punch replied airily. “Now, breakfast. Breakfast, breakfast. I wanna get down there before the ladies. You say Dr. Halifax is ready?”

“He’s in the nursery with Master Colin, Sir.”

“Right.” Punch said. He looked at Dog Toby, “C’mon, Chum. Time for your seconds.”

The terrier looked up and stretched before jumping from the chair and following Mr. Punch.

Leaving his chamber, Mr. Punch wondered why Charles seemed to be following him to the nursery.

“Was there somethin’ else, Charles?” Punch paused, turning around.

“I had hoped to speak with Your Grace and Dr. Halifax for a moment, please.” Charles replied.

“Oh?” Punch raised an eyebrow. “Certainly, Charlie. Come with me and Dog Toby.”

As they turned the corner in the passage, they stopped in their tracks as Lady Constance came toward them.

“Good morning, Lady Hamish.” Mr. Punch said politely. “I thought that we should speak this morning about your situation. Dr. Halifax and I spent a good part of the night working out a plan which may serve you and Lady Lensdown quite well.”

“Thank you, Your Grace.” She nodded. “May I borrow your man for a moment?”

Punch looked at Charles. “What do you require? Surely Violet can assist you.”

“I was sending your boy, Georgie, to my home to fetch a trunk for me. I’ll need Charles to help him carry it in.”

“Of course, in a few moments.” Punch smiled

“I really do need it now, Your Grace.” Lady Constance replied.

“I shall go at once with Georgie.” Charles said.

“Charles…” Punch began. “You had said…”

“I beg your pardon, Your Grace.” Charles shook his head. I shall speak with you at your convenience before you and Dr. Halifax depart for the palace.”

Punch nodded.

“If you’ll follow me, Charles,” Lady Constance said with relief, “I shall give you your instructions.”

Punch watched as Charles followed Lady Constance.

“Breakfast,” he muttered as Toby wagged his tail. “That, Chum, is not the breakfast I’d planned.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-223 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 225.

Drawing of the Day: The Caged Pope and the King of Naples, 1848

Click Image to Enlarge

"The Caged Pope and the King of Naples"
Antonio Masutti, 1848
The British Museum

Drawn by North Italian artist Antonio Masutti in 1848, this sketch depicts Ferdinand II King of Naples with the “caged” Pope in Gaeta. A revolutionary figure stands behind them. 1848 The graphite drawing is one of 106 satirical sketches related to the Roman journal "Il Don Pirlone".

Accompanying materials state that the cage contains Pope Pius IX as a parrot while the King of Naples trains the parrot, using a barrel organ so that the pontiff will speak as the King does.

The King is dressed as Pulcinella, presumably to indicate his mischievous intentions.

Object of the Day: "Punch and Toby," a Children's Book

I received this beautiful book from my parents for Christmas. Since English books before 1970 often didn’t list a copyright date, it’s difficult to say when the book was published, but it’s the work of London’s Juvenile Productions, Ltd., and likely was written and illustrated in the 1940s. Neither the author nor illustrator is named.

The illustrations are truly stunning. I wish I could have reproduced all of them for you, but I didn’t want to risk damaging the book by opening it wide enough to scan all of the pages.

Entitled, “Punch and Toby,” the story explains that Mr. Punch lives in a steam-lined caravan and travels to seaside towns to entertain children. Along the way, he meets a stray dog and decides to call him, “Toby.” After being given a bath (which Punch calls the worst part) and dinner (which Punch calls the best part), Dog Toby is Punch’s friend for life and they travel about together, riding on roundabouts, visiting the marketplaces, and putting on their show.

I’m especially tickled that Punch greets Toby initially with, “Hullo, Chum”—just like our Mr. Punch/the Duke of Fallbridge from “Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Bertreem

"Are you aware that there's a deer next to you?"

Click on image to enlarge.

Image:  “The Hhareem, Cairo; The Hhareem of a Mamluke Bey, Cairo; the introduction of an Abyssinian Slave,” watercolor, created in Britain, 1850, by John Frederick Lewis (RA POWCS), born 1805 - died 1876 (artist), from the Victoria & Albert Museum.

You, too, could have a cup of tea with Bertie. Or, you could wear his picture proudly. Visit our online store to see our range of Gratuitous Bertie Dog products.

Mastery Design: The Uzbeck Clasp, 1800-1900

Uzbekistan, c. 1800-1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Described in the early Twentieth Century accounts of the V&A as being from the Yemen district of Arabia, this handsome clasp was acquired by the V&A in 1910 and is thought to have been made in the early 1800s. Later curators concluded that the clasp was not made in Yemeni, but rather from Bukhara in Uzbekistan. Adorned with floral repoussé on the silver sheet which forms the backing, the clasp is pave set with turquoises—a main featured of Uzbek jewelry. Pendants of coral beads on silver wire contrast the brilliant blue. The center stone is actually yellow glass. 

Painting of the Day: Muscat Cove, 1826

Click image to enlarge

Muscat Cove, Arabia
McKenzie, 1826
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Painted in 1826, this watercolor was finished in Turkey by R. McKenzie who signed the reverse along with the date and title “Muscat Cover, Arabia.”

The history of the painting is something of mystery. In December of 1973, it came to Sotheby’s where it was auctioned and acquired by the V&A.

Nonetheless, the delicate watercolor demonstrates the growing British fascination with exotic locals which steadily grew over the Nineteenth Century.

History's Runway: An Egyptian Tunic, 670-870

Egypt, 670-870
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The history of fashion is as long as the history of humankind. As long as there’s been nudity, we’ve sought attractive ways to cover ourselves. To this end, textiles have been made for centuries. For example, in the late Roman Empire and in Byzantine Egypt, textiles were made commercially by weavers for sale to households, and, often by commission. These lush fabrics were used to create tunics—garments which were similar for both men and women.

While initially a garment constructed of one piece of fabric, by the Fifth Century, tunics were made in three pieces and adorned with a belt. One of the most popular patterns were stripes, both in Rome and Coptic Egypt.

This tunic of red wool, dating between 670 and 870, heralds from Egypt. It is adorned with white vertical strikes at the sides and, at the neck, features a woven tapestry of colored wools and linen thread.

Like later tunics, this one is made up of several pieces which have been seamed and cuffed. The sleeves are open under the arms. Though stained and slightly decayed, it’s an exceptional example of fashion of the Seventh to Eighth Century Egypt.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 223

Chapter 223 
In Confidence

Comin’ to bed so soon?” Gerard asked as Charles came into their room. “’Milla said the masters had ya watchin’ the front door.”

“Nah, I’m just up for a visit.” Charles shook his head.

“Well, ain’t I a lucky bloke?” Gerard grinned. “I had lots o’ company today.”

“You look much better. Even better than you did this morning.” Charles smiled.

“I’m feelin’ better.” Gerard nodded. “Better each day. I’ll be back at me post any day now.”

“We’ll just see what the doctor says about that.” Charles warned.

“Sure, but, you can’t keep doin’ everythin’.”

“I’m all right,” Charles replied.

“Are ya?”

“Sure.” Charles nodded. “Why do you ask?”

“You got that look ‘bout ya.” Gerard squinted.

“What look?” Charles frowned.

“Look, I know ya.” Gerard sighed. “We been sleepin’ in the same room for some time now. Ya get to know a bloke and his moods. I like to think so anyway.”

“I am bothered by something,” Charles whispered.

“Go on, then.” Gerard nodded.

“Well, I…” Charles began. “Listen, Gerry, you’ve got to keep this to yourself.”

“Ain’t I a friend?” Gerard smiled. “Have I ever told somethin’ you said in confidence.”

“No.” Charles answered.

“So, go on…”

Charles looked form side to side as if there could have been someone else they’d not noticed in their cozy room.

“I was downstairs, as the masters instructed.” Charles started. “I heard light footsteps, and, then, Lady Constance came down the stairs. She was looking to leave.”

“Did you stop her?”


“Well, then.” Gerard smiled. “You done good.”

“I suppose.” Charles answered flatly.

“Did ya tell the masters?”

“No.” Charles shook his head.

“Ain’t ya better?”

“There’s more.” Charles replied.


“She spoke to me.”

“Lady Constance?”

“Sure.” Charles nodded.

“What’d she tell ya, Charlie?”

“She told me she’s got a child.”

“We knew that. His Grace already told us.” Gerard said.

“I know, but…she said more.”

“What is it, man?” Gerard asked.

“She told me she was the one who killed her mother the Countess.”

“She never did.” Gerard’s eyes widened.

“She did.”

“And, here, all this time the masters thought it were Orpha and Finlay.”

“We all did.” Charles said. “It stands to reason, but Lady Constance told me she done it—like it was nothing.”

“You’ve got to tell the masters.” Gerard said quickly.

“I promised her I’d not.”

“You promised her?”

“I did.”

“Oh, listen, Charlie, it’s Lady Barbara all over again.”

“Don’t say that.” Charles snapped.

“It is. You got a thing for ladies in peril. I know it. You feel like you can take care of ‘em. But, you saw how it worked out with the Duke’s sister, didn’t ya? She broke your heart. She left ya to die. She was mad. Still is—for all we know. Now, this one. She’s a murderer. You can’t get involved with another one like Lady Barbara.”

“You were the henchman of her equally wicked husband.”

Gerard frowned.

Charles quickly realized he’d hurt the man’s feelings.

“I know what I done.” Gerard said softly. “And, I done worse than bein’ associated with Arthur. But, I ain’t like that now. I shown everyone I changed.”

“You have, Gerry. I’m sorry.”

“But, you ain’t changed, my friend.” Gerard continued. “At least Lady Barbara was pretty. This one looks like a horse.”

“She’s not so bad.” Charles shook his head.

“Charles, my kin is all gone. You folk here, you’re my family now, and, Charles, you’re the brother I always wanted. I know your own brother weren’t no treat. I like to think maybe I’m a brother to you, too.”

“Why in hell do you think I’m here telling you all this?” Charles sputtered.

“Well, if that’s the way it is, you oughta listen to me.”

Charles chuckled.

“Tell the masters and don’t let that horsey wench turn your head. She tried, didn’t she?”

“Maybe.” Charles sighed.

“Don’t let her, Charlie. Just don’t.” Gerard pleaded. “I…I love ya. And, I don’t wanna see ya hurt. Why get yourself tangled up with a woman like that when ya got a pretty girl—a nice, innocent girl, right here who you could flirt with.”

“Gamilla’s yours.”

“I don’t mean Gamilla. There’s other girls here.”

“Ethel and Jenny?” Charles laughed.

“You know I mean Vi.” Gerard scowled.

“One thing at a time, Gerry.” Charles shook his head.

“Do this for me. Please. Go to the Duke and Dr. Halifax. Please. When all is said and done, they’re out masters. They give us this home. They made this family for us. Please.”

Charles nodded.

“Will ya?” Gerard asked.

“I’ll think about it.”


“I’ll think about the right way to do it,” Charles answered.

“But, you’ll do it?”

“I will.” Charles nodded.

“Fine.” Gerard smiled, finally. “Now, grab that book over there and read to me a bit.”

“Where’s the ‘please’?”

“I used ‘em all up.” Gerard winked.

Did you miss Chapters 1-222? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 224 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.