Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 292

Chapter 292 

Your Grace,” Speaight rose as Punch descended the service stairs. “Everyone to your feet” he waved his hands at Mrs. Pepper, Georgie and Maudie who had gathered around Ethel and Ruthy.

“No, no.” Punch shook his head. “Stay where you are, please.” He was careful to speak in the measured tones of the Duke of Fallbridge.

Walking across the servants’ hall, Mr. Punch joined the staff at the table, sitting down with them. He tried his best to smile for the sake of Ethel and the visiting girl.

“When I was a small boy,” Punch began, “I saw many a thing that was frightening. These same things frightened me as a man. I was fortunate because I had something within me which comforted me.” He looked at Ethel and nodded. “You know what I mean by that.”

Ethel nodded slowly.

“When I met Dr. Halifax,” Punch continued, “I realized that I didn’t just have to rely upon myself…or…my own…” he struggled for the words, “inner thoughts to feel safe. I soon saw that I could rely on other people. They, too, may be frightened, but there’s even comfort in being frightened with someone else—someone who cares about you. Ethel, you have many here who care about you. Frightening things may throw themselves at us. They may even sometimes, like today, find their way into our home here. When they do, we, together, will face them and do what we can to make them retreat. And, even on those days when we can’t make them go away altogether, we can always know that, together, we are safe. Together, we always have people who understand us, people who love us and want us to be well. Ethel, for as long as you’re here, you will have that.”

Ethel smiled.

“If you’d like, you may go to your room and get some rest.” Punch smiled.

“No, Sir. I got lots of dishes what want washin’ in the scullery. Don’t I, Mrs. Pepper?”

“I should say you do.” Mrs. Pepper grinned.

“Ethel,” Maudie began. “I can help you with them pots, if you’ll help me chop all them onions for the upstairs tarts. Would that be all right, Mrs. Pepper?”

“Sure, it would.” Mrs. Pepper nodded. “But, be smart ‘bout it. Upstairs dinner is comin’ quick.”

The two girls rose and hurried toward the kitchens. Ethel paused and turned to face the Duke.

“Your Grace?” she said softly.

“Yes, Ethel.”

“Thank you.” Ethel nodded before rushing off after Maudie.

Mr. Punch took a deep breath.

“Your Grace,” Mrs. Pepper smiled. “I got the kettle on. I was just about to get some tea for Ruthy. Maybe you’d fancy some?”

“No, thank you.” Punch shook his head.

“I’ll leave ya to talk with the girl, then.” Mrs. Pepper nodded. “Come with me, Georgie.”

“Mum? What am I gonna do in the kitchens?”

“You can bring in them sacks of flour like I asked ya an hour ago.” Mrs. Pepper said sharply.

“Oh, right.” Georgie nodded. He stood up. “Nice meetin’ ya, Ruthy.”

Ruthy looked up.

“Good afternoon, Your Grace.” George bowed his head.

“You’re a good lad, George.” Mr. Punch responded. “Now…” He turned to Speaight. “I’d like to speak with Ruthy for a moment.”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Speaight nodded, retreating to his pantry.

“Ruthy,” Punch started, “how are you?”

“I never seen anything like it.” Ruthy shook her head.

“I know.” Punch answered sympathetically. “But, we mustn’t be afraid. The poor creatures can’t help what they are. It’s an accident of nature, as Dr. Halifax says. We should pity them, not fear them.”

“I didn’t mean that, Your Grace.” Ruthy answered.


“No. I was shocked by that poor, sad thing.” Ruthy confessed. “I shouldn’t have screamed like that.”

“It’s understandable that you did.” Mr. Punch smiled. “But, if you didn’t mean, Marduk, as they’re called, what did you mean?”

“This, Your Grace.” Ruthy shrugged. “A master of the house, a Duke no less, coming down and sitting with the staff to make them feel better. Speaking to a scullery maid in such a gentle way so she’d not be afraid.”

“As master of the house, as you say, it’s my responsibility to see that all who live here are safe and comfortable.”

“Most men don’t care, Sir. Especially men like you—men with titles and wealth.”

“I’m not most men.” Mr. Punch chuckled slightly.

“Your Grace,” Ruthy began, “if you’ll have me still, I’d like to start my trial.”

“I’d like that.” Mr. Punch said. “Speaight will take you upstairs to the attics and show you where you’ll be sleeping and give you your uniforms. Then, if you would, tell him that I’d like to see you in the library, I’ll take you to meet Colin. Gamilla and Miss Molliner should have returned by then.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Thank you, Ruthy. I hope you’ll be happy here.”

“I know I will be.” Ruthy nodded.

After arranging for Speaight to take Ruthy to her new quarters, and after checking in on the kitchens to see that everything was as it should be, Punch quietly slipped from the servants’ hall and went upstairs two flights to the library where he found Dog Toby waiting for him.

“Hullo, furry one.” Punch said softly.

The terrier wagged his tail.

“Been a terrible day, it has.” Punch shook his head. “Just terrible.” He knelt to pet the dog, and, then, spotted the ornate table in the center of the opulent room.

“Here,” Punch sighed. “Maybe…maybe we oughta…”

The dog seemed to understand Punch and trotted to the table, lying down under it. Punch crawled across the plush carpet and joined the dog underneath the table.

“Coo.” Punch puffed, lying on his back and shutting his eyes. Dog Toby rolled over so that his head was resting on Punch’s leg.

“Let’s just stay here for awhile, furry love.” Punch whispered. “Our chum will find us.” He sighed again. “Just for a little while, then. Just long ‘nough to catch me breath.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-291 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 293.

No comments: