Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 245

Chapter 245 

Well?” Mr. Punch asked as Robert entered the drawing room. Even from across the monumental reception room, Robert could see that Punch’s hands were shaking and his face was ashen.

“She was stabbed through the heart.” Robert shook his head.

Punch clutched his stomach and slowly sat in one of the plush, golden-silk covered chairs.

“She must ‘ave suffered so.” Punch groaned.

“I’m afraid so.” Robert sighed, walking over to Punch. He pulled up an ottoman and sat in front of his companion. “But, she’s at peace now.”

“Poor Jenny.” Punch mumbled.

Robert nodded. “Now, we must worry about poor Ethel.”

“I know.” Punch answered softly.

“I don’t know how your sister managed it.” Robert began. “But, she got Ethel to finally leave Mr. Langdon with Jenny.”

“I’m glad of that, at least.” Punch answered, his voice cracking.

“Ethel’s resting in Lennie’s room.” Robert continued. “Your sister is sitting with her. She’s been really very good with the girl. I suppose all those years of caring for Roger have seasoned her.”

“Has she said anything?” Punch asked. “Ethel, I mean.”

“No.” Robert shook his head. “Nothing beyond the same wretched stammers of how Jenny is gone to heaven. Perhaps Lennie will be able to get her to tell what happened.”

“Not for a long time, I’m afraid.” Mr. Punch replied. “I know…I know what it’s like to see someone awful, to live through somethin’ awful and to be so…”


“Yes.” Punch nodded. “Even them things what happened to Julian. I saw ‘em. That’s why I’m here. That’s why he created me within ‘imself to…to…cope. He made me strong so I could live through what he couldn’t. But, Chum, I don’t think that even I’m strong enough to live through what Ethel just done. She’s a child. She and Jenny both. Really, they’re children. Ours is a world wherein a child’s gotta work, Chum. Both them girls—taken from their homes and families and put in the homes of strangers so that they can toil and break their poor backs.”

“All in all, dear Punch, both Ethel and Jenny have enjoyed better lives in the homes of others than they could have in the homes of their families. More secure, more comfortable…”

“Not so secure that a child weren’t stabbed to death.” Punch shook his head. “I shoulda kept them safer. They’re children. Georgie, too.”

“Looking back on my life,” Robert said softly, “when I was aged fourteen years like Jenny and Ethel and Georgie…in many ways, my dear, I’d have preferred to have worked downstairs in a grand, fine house such as this than to have had to find shelter on the streets as Cecil and I did.”

“But, you…you found a way. You got yourself educated. You’re a doctor now. Had you been in service, you’d not have been able to do that.”

“Nor would I have had to eat rubbish and find kind men to give me shelter.”

Punch nodded. “You’re right. None of it changes the fact that Jenny’s gone. I failed the girl. I failed all o’ ‘em. I promised that I would keep ‘em all safe.”

“You can’t blame yourself, dear Punch. We don’t know what happened. All we know is that the girls left the house without permission and without the knowledge of anyone.”

“Musta gone out the garden door.” Punch muttered. “That’s why it were unlocked. Chum, I were awake all night. Why didn’t I hear ‘em? I coulda stopped them!”

“You can’t hear through four floors. You can’t be aware of everything that happens in a house this size, nor can you monitor the actions of a dozen people. Furthermore, you cannot control the evil outside this house.”

“Oh…that reminds me. Johnny Donnan and Jonas Stover are here. Speaight told me not long ago.”

“I’d almost forgotten they were coming.” Robert sighed.

“Mrs. Pepper’s feedin’ ‘em in the servants’ hall. They’ll keep. Speaight says Donnan is quite changed and that Stover is rather peculiar.”

Robert nodded.

“Will Mr. Langdon come to us when he’s finished with Jenny?” Punch asked, his voice quaking again.

“Yes.” Robert replied. “He wanted to know about the arrangements. I told him I would consult with you.”

“We must have the wake here.” Punch inhaled. “I suppose in this very room.” He paused. “I don’t know much ‘bout religion. What was Jenny?”

“Church of England.” Robert replied. “Speaight informed me earlier.”

That’s right.” Punch said quietly. “He took Vi, Jenny, Ethel, and George to services on Sunday mornings.” Punch leaned forward. “We must have her funeral at St. Peter’s in Eaton Square.”

“Yes.” Robert nodded.

“I’ll have Speaight arrange it. He knows the vicar there.” Punch patted Robert’s knee.

“Where shall she…” Robert began.

“I don’t know.” Punch gulped. “I sent Charles to the girl’s family. I don’t know if they have a family burial place.”

“I doubt it.”

“Me, too.” Punch’s eyes filled with tears. “In my letter, I said that we would pay for everything. Jenny did so like the Grange. I’d thought ‘bout havin’ her brought there and buried near Mrs. North. I remember after Mrs. North was…she…Jenny said it was a beautiful place to spend eternity. But, that’s too far for her family, I’d reckon. Then, I thought we could take her to Fallbridge Hall to be buried with my kin. But, Yorkshire’s too far, too.”

“Years ago, Cecil and I purchased a crypt at Highgate. But, now that he’s likely never to return from America…”

“And, you’ll be buried with me at Fallbridge Hall.” Punch wept.

“We could use that…” Robert wiped a tear from Punch’s cheek. “There’s no monument as of yet.”

“That’ll be fine…” Punch sobbed.

“Oh, dear Punch. Robert embraced his companion.

“I’m all right, Chum.” Punch cried into Robert’s shoulder. “It’s just that I never did like makin’ arrangements.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-244 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 246.

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