Lose Our Places
“Charlie!” Mrs. Pepper rushed toward the Duke’s valet as he came into her kitchen. “What’s it all about?” She lightly touched his face which was beginning to swell—a bright red handprint outlined on his cheek.
“Lady Constance,” Charlie winced as Mrs. Pepper’s chilly fingers touched his skin.
“She struck ya?” Mrs. Pepper gasped.
“That she did, Mrs. P.” Charles forced a smile.
“Whatever for?” Mrs. Pepper scowled.
“I told the Duke something she told me in confidence and the Duke tossed her out of the house.”
“Did he, then?” Mrs. Pepper grinned. “Good. I don’t like that one. Lady Lensdown, I don’t mind, if we’ve got to have strangers about. But, that Lady Constance…well, I just don’t know.” She leaned in, “Here, Charlie, what’d she tell ya?”
“I can’t, Mrs. P.” Charles shook his head.
“I figured as much,” Mrs. Pepper sighed. “Only it was worth a try. Here, come into the larder and we’ll see what we can put on that bruise.”
As Mrs. Pepper and Charles retreated into the larder, Ethel poked her head out of the scullery door and signaled to Jenny with a sharp, “Pssst.”
Jenny nodded and slipped through the kitchen into the scullery.
“Did Georgie agree yet?” Ethel asked.
“No.” Jenny replied softly. “Said it’d mean his job if he let us go with him on his evenin’ out. ‘Sides, says he ain’t even sure if Charlie will let him go what with all that’s goin’ on.”
“What’s Charlie got to do with it?” Ethel frowned. “It’s Mr. Speaight what’s the one who says when we go and where.”
“Georgie says that he’s Charles’ ‘prentice, and that Charlie’s his master as he’s learnin’ to be a footman. Says Mr. Speaight put Georgie in Charles’ care.”
“Charles is gonna be upstairs watchin’ the ‘all like he done last night. He won’t even know if Georgie leaves.” Ethel argued.
“I told Georgie that. He says, all the more reason he should stay should the masters need somethin’ in the night.”
“Well, don’t he ‘ave all the answers?” Ethel snorted. “And, ‘ere I thought Georgie was as loyal to the masters as we are.”
“Ain’t he?” Jenny squinted. “Ain’t stayin’ ‘ere case someone needs ‘im bein’ loyal.”
“Maybe.” Ethel shrugged. ‘Dunno. But, I feel like we oughta do somethin’ to ‘elp.”
“Dunno what you think we can do.” Jenny replied.
“We can go and give that Polk bitch what for, is what we can do.” Ethel snapped.
“Here…you wanna get Vi and Mr. Speaight and all comin’ in ‘ere. Keep quiet, then.” Jenny urged.
“Right.” Jenny nodded.
“We can do sum-fink is all I’m sayin’.” Ethel said in a softer voice.
“We know that Polk woman is a loony. What makes ya think we can get her to stop botherin’ the masters?”
“We’ll…we’ll make her go ‘way.” Ethel nodded.
“How?” Jenny laughed. “Ethel, you’re barmy. Our master is the bleedin’ Duke of Fallbridge. He sits at table with the Queen and Prince Albert. He’s got buckets of gold and power and he can’t make the woman stop botherin’ ‘imself. What makes ya believe a scullery and a kitchen maid can.”
“Cuz…” Ethel replied thoughtfully. “Master’s too nice. Too kind, he is. He thinks with ‘is ‘eart and that’s why we love ‘im. But, he didn’t have the life we done. We know how to get rid o’ folk what’re a problem.”
“Maybe you do, love.” Jenny shook her head.
“Come with me,” Ethel pleaded.
“And lose me place here?” Jenny said. “Not likely. Listen, Ethel. You’re like me own sister, but, I can’t lose me place. Mum would kill me. And what’s more, when are we ever gonna find such a place with such masters as the Duke and Dr. Halifax. Not only are they the kindest men I ever saw, but…well, like I said…he’s the Duke of Fallbridge. Closest thing to a prince without Royal blood, he is. One of the wealthiest men in the empire. We got it good, Ethel. Ain’t such hard work ‘ere. And, Mrs. Pepper and Mr. Speaight’s easy compared to others I known. We got friends ‘ere and a right fine ‘ome. All cozy and nice. I can’t lose it, Ethel. I can’t.”
“If we don’t do somethin’, we WILL lose our places. Cuz there won’t be a Duke of Fallbridge.”
“Charles and Gerard and Gamilla say the Duke and the doctor are the strongest men they know. They can take care o’ themselves. If Charles and them say it, it’s got to be so. Gamilla says they fought a woman what was a real witch in ‘Merica. I mean a real witch with fire and magic and all. If they can fight a witch, they can bother with some spinster like Orpha Polk.”
“Jenny, I got a bad feelin’. I know the masters would do anythin’ to protect us. We gotta help them!”
“Well, Georgie won’t let us go wit’ ‘im, Ethel. And, he’s right.”
“Then, we’ll have to go without ‘im.”
“Where? We don’t even know where the Polk woman is.”
“I do.” Ethel nodded. “I could ‘ear ‘em talkin’ in the drawin’ room.”
“However did ya?”
“The lift…” Ethel pointed to the dumbwaiter which connected the reception rooms to the scullery. “If I open the trap, I can hear what they’re sayin’ in some o’ the big rooms upstairs.”
“Ain’t.” Ethel scowled. “The Polk woman is at Eudora Stover’s.”
“So? Where’s that?”
“I know where. I remember Hortence talkin’ ‘bout it when she was ‘ere.”
Jenny shook her head.
“If you don’t go with me, I’ll go on me own.” Ethel said firmly.
“However will ya get out?”
“Mrs. Pepper needs a hamper packed. Miss Lennie came down earlier and said she needed Mrs. Pepper to pack a hamper to take to her cousin—you know that barmy fella what was ‘ere.”
“I know the one.” Jenny shivered. “But, we got lots o’ ‘ampers right here.”
“But, Miss Lennie asked for a special sort o’ chutney. We ain’t got what we need for it. I’ll tell Mrs. Pepper I’ll go out for what she needs.”
“She’d not send ya.”
“She would if you went. We gone shoppin’ for ‘er many a time.”
“For little things like violets for the pastries and such. Not for…”
“Jenny, I’m gonna go. Like I said, I’ll go without ya.”
“Fine, all to blazes. I’ll go.” Jenny whispered.
Did you miss Chapters 1-236 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 238.