Monday, April 8, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 298

Chapter 298 

Lennie?” Robert said quickly as he came out of his rarely-used bedroom. “What is it?”

“It’s Punch. Come quickly!” Lennie shouted from the floor below.

The shouts of the young woman had attracted the attention of the entire household. Charles and Gerard came running down from the attics and Mr. Speaight came from the servants’ hall to see what was wrong.

“Gerard!” Robert shouted as he raced down the stairs. “Get my bag from my study, would you?”

“Yes, Sir.” Gerard nodded.

“Doctor!” Gamilla called down from the balcony. “What’s happened?”

“I don’t know.” Robert responded without looking up. “Please, stay with Colin.”

“Violet is with him. Maybe I can help ya like I done before.” Gamilla answered.

“Yes, yes.” Robert said.

“He’s in the library.” Lennie pointed. “I found him under the table…in his little spot. But, he won’t respond. He’s unconscious.”

Robert and Lennie rushed into the library, followed by Charles, Speaight, and, then Gamilla.

Dog Toby barked frantically.

“There, there, Toby.” Robert said gently.

“I’ll take him.” Lennie picked up the terrier who refused to break his gaze from his master.

Robert crawled under the table and put his hand on Punch’s throat. “His heartbeat is slow, but he’s breathing normally, if not deeply.”

“It’s like he’s asleep.” Lennie said quietly. “But, it isn’t quite sleep is it?”

Robert shook his head. He leaned in. “Dear Punch?” He whispered. “It’s your Robert. Can you open your eyes?”

Punch remained still.

“Is it…is it an episode?” Lennie asked, still holding Dog Toby nearby. “I don’t know how to say it…when he’s overtaken by one of the other…minds?”

“No.” Robert shook his head. “That doesn’t alter the workings of his body.” He peered out from under the table. “Charles, would you help me?”

“Yes, Sir.” Charles replied.

“Help me move him gently…over to the sofa.” Robert said, crawling out. “You take his legs, I’ll lift him from under his arms. But, first, we’ll have to drag him out. Carefully now.”

Charles very gingerly tugged on the Duke’s legs to pull him from beneath the table.

“Gamilla, could you get some water from the pitcher there?”

Gamilla went to the sideboard where a chilled pitcher of crystal water always sat on a silver tray in case the Duke became thirsty during his work.

“It’s empty.” Gamilla replied.

“Give it to me.” Speaight nodded. “I’ll fill it.”

Once Charles had removed Punch from under the table, Robert bent at the knees and lifted his companion from underneath his arms. Charles picked up the man’s legs, and, together, they moved him to the sofa.

Robert undid Mr. Punch’s cravat and removed it and his collar, unbuttoning the first few buttons of the Duke’s white shirt.

“He feels warm.” Robert muttered.

“Feverish, Sir?” Charles asked.

“No. Warm. As he always is.” Robert answered softly. “I don’t understand it. He was fine when I last saw him.”

“When was that, Sir?” Charles asked.

“Just before I went up to the attics to speak to you and Gerard. His Grace went to the kitchens to speak to Ruthy.”

“Do ya think maybe he ate somethin’ that made him sick?” Gamilla asked.

“I can’t think of anything that does make him sick.” Robert shook his head. “He’ll eat anything.”

“I’ll go fetch Mrs. Pepper and see if she fed him anything.” Charles volunteered.

“Thank you.”

Charles hurried to the door and brushed past Gerard who was just entering with Robert’s medical bag.

“Here you are, Sir.” Gerard said.

“Perhaps some smelling salts.” Lennie suggested. “That always worked on Mr. Barrett when he fainted.”

“This isn’t a faint.” Robert shook his head. “But, we’ll try it.” Reaching to open his bag, Robert frowned.

“What is it, Doctor?” Gerard asked.

“Did you open this bag?” Robert asked.

“No, Sir. I’d never.”

“Someone’s been in here. It’s not latched properly.” Robert began to rummage through the contents of the leather satchel, taking inventory in his mind. “There’s…there’s a bottle missing?”

“What bottle?” Lennie asked.

“A sleeping tonic.” Robert hissed. “Someone’s taken the bottle from my bag.”

“Who could have done such a thing?” Lennie gasped.

“Gamilla,” Robert snapped. “Go and fetch Fern.”

“Surely you don’t think that poor girl took a tonic from your bag and gave it…” Lennie began. “She wouldn’t. She’d…that’s tantamount to poisoning someone. She’s just a child.”

“She’d do it, Miss.” Gamilla answered. “I’ll get her.”

As Gamilla exited, Lennie shook her head. “Robert, she’s a child. What does she know of tonics?”

“She knows far more about wickedness than she should.” Robert clucked his tongue. “Just think of where she’s been and with whom. Furthermore, look what she’s already done while here—Gamilla’s dress and…furthermore, Lennie, everyone else in the household can be accounted for and knows not to go into my medicine bag.”

Lennie sighed. “You’re correct, of course. I can’t deny those facts. I just…”

“You want to romanticize the concept of childhood. But, Lennie, this girl…she’s been changed by her life. She’s no longer a child though her body says otherwise.”

“Robert,” Lennie asked tremulously, “Be frank. If Fern did give Punch this tonic, what’s the worst it could do? It’s a sleeping tonic, yes? Surely it’s mostly harmless.”

“Yes, in small doses. But…if Fern gave him too much—say the whole bottle—it could be fatal.” His eyes widened. “The pitcher! It was empty. She poured it into the pitcher of water! We all know how Punch sips his water when he’s in here.”

“What reason could she have?” Lennie gasped.

“He punished her. Just as Gamilla did.” Robert shook his head. “She’s a vengeful little bitch like her grandmother and I want her out of this house! I’ve said it before, and…”

Gamilla entered with an ashen-faced Fern, followed by Charles who’d returned from the kitchens. Charles looked puzzled as to why the child had been brought into the library.

“Charles?” Robert asked.

“His Grace refused Mrs. Pepper’s offer of tea when he was in the kitchens, Sir. He took neither food nor drink.”

“I see.” Robert inhaled. He turned to Fern. “Have you anything to say, Miss?”

“Is the Duke sick?” Fern asked.

“He’s been poisoned.”

“Has he?” Fern replied. “By whom?”

“By you.”

“I didn’t poison him.”


“No, Sir.”

“But, you did put something in his water?”

“Yes.” Fern nodded.

“The liquid in the blue bottle that you found in my bag?”

“Yes.” Fern replied. “I did. I thought he deserved it.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-297 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 299.

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