Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 301

Chapter 301 
To Be Made Welcome 

Fern,” Lennie began softly. “Do you understand how serious…how very serious it is?”

“What is that?”

“What you’ve done.” Lennie replied, surprised.

“Well…no.” Fern answered airily. “Mama used to take that very same tonic every night and no one made such a fuss.”

“Your mother didn’t take an entire bottle at once.” Lennie responded.

“She took a fair amount.”

“Only a spoonful or two.” Lennie narrowed her eyes.

“No.” Fern shook her head. “She’d put the bottle to her lips and drink from it.”

“Nonetheless…” Lennie frowned, “your mother didn’t imbibe an entire bottle at once.”

“How am I to know that?” Fern shrugged.

“Common sense, my girl.” Lennie squinted. “Furthermore, didn’t you realize that going into Uncle Robert’s study was not something you should do? And, certainly, you should know that a child should not go into a doctor’s medical bag.”

“First, Dr. Halifax is not my uncle. I don’t know why you all insist on my calling these men, ‘Uncle.’”

“Because they’ve welcomed you into their home.”

“Welcomed me to only parts of their home. You tell me that I shouldn’t go into Dr. Halifax’s study yet I’m to be made welcome?”

“Even the most generous of hosts has rules. When a guest in someone’s home, it’s important to obey those rules.” Lennie answered.

“I’m a guest? Am I guest or a part of the family as everyone keeps telling me?”

“Well, certainly you’re part of the family.” Lennie responded.

“Then, I should have freedom within the house.”

“Not total run of the house. You’re a child!” Lennie shook her head, wondering if, perhaps, she’d been wrong in her assessment of the innocence of the child. “As a child, you’re to be obedient. And…furthermore, no child should ever bother a doctor’s medicines. You could have been hurt and you’ve certainly hurt your Uncle Punch.”

“He’s not my Uncle.” Fern hissed.

“You yourself have called him such.”

“Only to get through. Like most men, those two like to be told what they want to here. Maybe if you learned that, you wouldn’t be a spinster.”

“No, I could be a slut like your mother was, and, from what I’ve been told, your grandmother before her!” Lennie spat. Suddenly, she turned coral red. “Oh…Fern…I didn’t mean that. I’m terribly sorry.”

Fern shrugged again. “It’s true. I’m the result of that.”

“It was an ugly thing for me to say. I must remember that you’re a child though you make it quite difficult to do so. You say and do things which don’t suit your age, my dear.”

“Intelligence is always punished.” Fern answered. “Perhaps it would be best to give me to my father.”

“Your father?”

“You know who he is.” Fern challenged.

“Do you?”

Fern bit her lip and remained silent.

“Fern, you shall stay here with us,” Lennie continued uncomfortably. “I’m simply trying to ensure that you understand that what you’ve done was not only terribly wrong, but also terribly dangerous.”

“Will the Duke die?”

“I don’t think so. He’s very strong.” Lennie shook her head.

“He doesn’t look it.” Fern sniffed.

“Still, you’ve made him terribly sick.”

“If he cannot take the same tonic which my mother took without getting sick, he can’t be very strong.”

“We have already discussed this.” Lennie said firmly. “You surprise me, Fern. I’ve been very supportive of you. While your Uncle Robert was quick to paint you as a wicked girl, I defended you. Now, I wonder if I shouldn’t have. Where is the girl who shed repentant tears just moments ago?”

“Changes in behavior shouldn’t shock you.” Fern smiled. “After all, you live with a man who thinks he is possessed by the spirit of a puppet and uses that as an excuse to act a fool.”

“That is not accurate.” Lennie said. “You misunderstand the Duke. He cannot help the way he acts. He does not think that he’s possessed by anything. He is…” She paused. “It’s too complicated a thing for a girl your age.”


“Yes.” Lennie nodded. “There are reasons that my brother has developed the way he has.”


“Yes, things which he endured as a child have…”

“Things like watching a two-headed infant drink the blood of mice? Things like knowing that your own mother preferred to hang herself and give you away to strangers than to keep you? Things like seeing the severed hand of a woman on the floor? Those sorts of things?” Fern challenged.

Lennie was silent.

“So many are so quick with answers to their own questions, but so few have answers to the questions of others.” Fern laughed.

“Did you intentionally…” Lennie asked, her voice quavering. “Did you intend to harm my brother? Is that why you put that tonic in his drink?”

Fern smiled.

“You did.” Lennie gasped.

“You’re…you…you are wicked.”

“I have reasons that I am the way I am.” Fern smiled, parroting Lennie’s earlier statement. “I endured things as a child.”

Lennie stepped backward. “You are to stay here in your room. I shall lock the door from the other side. Someone will bring you your dinner on a tray.”

“You needn’t bother. I shan’t eat it.”

“As you wish.” Lennie shook her head. With that, she exited, locking the door behind her. As she walked through the passage, she could hear Fern laughing.

Speaight greeted Lennie at the landing. “Miss? Is the girl settled?”

“I don’t think she’ll ever be settled.” Lennie shook her head.

“Oh.” Speaight nodded.

“How is His Grace?” Lennie cleared her throat.

“When I returned with fresh water, he was still unconscious, Miss Molliner. Gamilla was bathing His Grace’s brow while Dr. Halifax massaged the Duke’s legs.”

“Probably to encourage the flow of blood.” Lennie nodded. “I think I shall return to them. Will you tell Mrs. Pepper that Miss Fern will not be taking dinner tonight?”

“Yes, Miss Molliner.”

“Thank you, Speaight.”

“Miss Molliner?”


“I nearly forgot. A messenger came moments ago with something for you.”

“For me?”

“Yes, Miss.” Speaight smiled. “A box from a florist, I believe.”

“A florist.” Lennie repeated. “Are you sure?”

“Quite sure.” Speaight continued to smile.

“For me.” Lennie shook her head. “How…unexpected.”

“Not at all, Miss.” Speaight shook his head. “Pardon me for saying it, Miss Molliner, but I knew that when you came to live here, we would have many such a delivery. A household blessed with such a handsome young woman is always filled with flowers.”

“Oh…” Lennie’s eyes filled with tears. “I…” She shook her head. “Speaight, you’re a treasure.”

“Not at all.” Speaight replied. “I’ve left the parcel for you in your favorite spot in the morning room, at your writing desk, and I’ve taken the liberty of placing a vase of water on the salver next to it.”

“Thank you.” Lennie inhaled.

“Of course,” Speaight nodded. “Oh, Miss…if you don’t mind, if the flowers are wrapped in tissue, would you save it for Ethel, Maudie and Ruthy? They’ve already asked if you would. I told them that I would ask you. Ethel was eager to show the new girls how Jenny taught her to fold paper into the shape of a swan.”

“I’m so glad to hear it. I’m happy to know that Ethel is recovering, and, also managing to think of the pleasurable times she shared with Jenny. I certainly will save the paper, and any ribbon or string that might also be there. I know how they like to make things with it. Yes, yes, I’m quite pleased that Ethel is mending.”

“That owes entirely to you, Miss Molliner.” Speaight nodded. “Because of your care and affection, you worked a miracle.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” Lennie shook her head.

“I shall say it for you. I suspect, Miss, that you, in your own way, are able to heal a person with your manner, the way that Dr. Halifax heals with his medicine.”

Lennie glanced up the stairs to Fern’s door. “Not always, Speaight. However, I thank you for thinking so.”

“Yes, Miss.” Speaight nodded. “I shall tell Mrs. Pepper to refrain from making a tray for Miss Fern.”

“Thank you.”

With Speaight out of sight, Lennie took a deep breath to steady herself, and, then raced down the next flight of stairs to the morning room to open her very first delivery of flowers.

Did you miss Chapters 1-300 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 302.


Darcy said...

I think little Fern could use a few sessions with "ye olde child physiologist."
Too bad she's a little before Freud's time. She would have made a great case study for him.

Joseph Crisalli said...

It's funny because it's true. Ye Olde Child Psychologist! Ha!