A Peculiar Task
“Do come and sit, Lennie.” Robert said as Punch’s sister entered the morning room. “You look exhausted.”
“I rather am.” Lennie nodded weakly.
“Any improvement in Ethel?” Punch asked. “’As she…at least…calmed down?”
“No, not really, though she finally fell asleep. A fitful sleep, whimpering and thrashing, but sleep nonetheless.” Lennie shook her head as she sat next to Mr. Punch on one of the floral-covered settees.
“Poor, sad thing.” Punch sighed. “At least she’s sleepin’ now.”
“She wouldn’t say a word,” Lennie continued softly. “She wouldn’t even look at me. It’s tragic. For such a spirited girl to…well, it’s as if she was also…” She stopped. “We must hope that she’ll improve. I did manage to get her…soiled apron off of her. I gave it to Violet and told her to just throw it away.”
“That’s for the best,” Robert replied.
“Violet told me that Mrs. Pepper is concerned that we’ve not eaten upstairs.” Lennie continued. “And, that I’m to tell you, Punch, that we need to keep up our strength. I wasn’t sure if you’d given Mrs. Pepper a menu for dinner or not.”
“No.” Punch shook his head. “For once, I ain’t thinkin’ ‘bout me stomach.”
“I suppose we should tell Mrs. Pepper something. You know how she worries.”
“I can’t see havin’ dinner in the dinin’ room—not tonight. Not with poor Jenny lying upstairs in her coffin. I’ll ring for Speaight in a bit and tell ‘im that we’ll just have something cold on trays in the library.”
“Frankly, Mrs. Pepper should be relieved by that.” Robert nodded.
“Dunno how she’s gonna manage to get meals for downstairs let ‘lone up here what with Jenny…gone…and Ethel the way she is.”
“That’s something which I’ve been reluctant to mention, dear Punch.” Robert spoke up. “It’s rather awkward to say it, given our present situation, but we’re going to need to get some assistance for Mrs. Pepper.”
“Violet’s already volunteered to help in any way she can.” Lennie replied.
“Well, for today, that’s fine. However, Violet is already over-taxed. Since Gamilla’s gone to the nursery, Violet’s taken on all of her former duties in addition to her own.” Robert nodded.
“Not to mention acting as my lady’s maid.” Lennie sighed.
“Should we advertise for a permanent maid for you, Lennie?” Robert asked.
“I don’t need a maid at all, Robert.” Lennie shook her head. “I was, as such, a maid myself caring for Fath…Mr. Barrett…and Roger all that time. I can look after myself.”
“No.” Punch frowned. “You’re the sister of the Duke of Fallbridge. You will have a maid.”
Robert smiled at Mr. Punch’s firmness.
“If I must have one, I’d prefer to have Violet.” Lennie replied.
“In that case, we’ll advertise for a house maid and a parlor maid.” Robert said. “And, Violet can be yours.”
“And…” Punch said softly. “A kitchen maid.”
“Yes.” Robert nodded.
They sat in silence for awhile, each thinking of Jenny.
Finally, Lennie spoke. “I almost forgot to ask. Did you see Mr. Donnan?” She winced as she said the name of her natural father.
“We did.” Punch answered.
“Did he ask after me?” Lennie asked shyly.
“No.” Mr. Punch replied. “Not in so many words, he didn’t, though he did mention you. Said, you was the best thing he ever did, and, rightly, I’m sure it’s true.”
“Thank you, dear Mr. Punch.” Lennie answered.
“Knew better than to ask to speak to ya.” Mr. Punch continued. “He knows you don’t fancy ‘avin’ ‘im in your life.”
“Not presently.” Lennie agreed. “Was it, at least, a fruitful conference?”
“In a way,” Robert answered. “Frankly, the man spoke too much. He seemed bent on unburdening himself of a lifetime of cruelty. Meanwhile, the other one, Mr. Stover, didn’t speak one word. It was all very peculiar.”
“Peculiar men for a peculiar task.” Lennie inhaled.
“He’s just as disgusted by Orpha Polk as we.” Robert answered.
“Rightly blames ‘er for Finlay’s death.” Punch nodded.
“Isn’t it odd?” Lennie shook her head slightly. “At the same time, I found out that I had two half brothers and one of them died before I could even know him.”
“I knew Finlay.” Punch scowled. “I ‘ate to say it of your kin, but…”
“I understand.” Lennie smiled softly. “I’ve more blessings now than I ever imagined.” She took a deep breath. “So, Mr. Donnan agreed to his task?”
“He did.” Punch responded.
“Did he understand what he was to do?”
“Not at first.” Robert smiled. “However, we made ourselves most clear.”
“When does she die?” Lennie asked.
“Tonight.” Robert answered.
“Jus’ as them poor folk come here to pray over Jenny’s body.” Punch said sternly.
Did you miss Chapters 1-247 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 249.