Friday, April 12, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 302

Chapter 302 

Faces of Madness 

Lennie found the white paper box, wrapped in pale pink ribbon on the small writing desk in the Morning Room which she had adopted as her own. As Speaight had said, a vase of water had been left next to it on a round silver tray.

Her hands trembled as she untied the ribbon and lifted the lid off of the box. Pink paper had been laid across the interior. She carefully removed the fragile tissue so that it would be in pristine condition when given to Ethel and the other girls downstairs.

Gasping at what lay beneath, Lennie felt her heart flutter. She gazed at the lush assortment of flowers—Sweet peas, white lilacs, clusters of small violet roses, forget-me-nots, Canterbury bells, dahlias, and large blooms of deep pink roses on thornless stems.

Atop the bouquet was a small rectangle of card which Lennie picked up.

Miss Molliner—

Thank you for allowing me to walk you home.

With gratitude…

Lord Cleaversworth

“Matthew.” Lennie whispered.

Here eyes again returned to the flowers and she tried to recall what they meant. She’d never received a floral tribute before and had never taken the time to memorize the meanings of the different flowers the way other young ladies did. As best she could recall, the sweet pea blossoms signified gratitude while the white lilacs…she blushed.

“No, it couldn’t be.” She muttered as she recalled the meaning of the lilacs. “The first feelings of love.” She shook her head. “Surely…not.”

What did the violet roses represent? Lavender roses meant “Love at first sight.” Lennie felt the warmth rise in her neck.

The significance of the forget-me-nots was rather obvious, but what of the Canterbury bells with their five-arced, deep cups of light purple? Yes…yes, they, too, meant gratitude. Dahlias, she thought, represented an expression of appreciated elegance. That made her laugh. She never considered herself to be especially elegant.

And, what of the rich, pink roses on their long thornless stems. The blooms themselves also showed gratitude, but…the stems. Lennie sat down at the desk. Could it be? Her heart fluttered. She remembered reading once that when the thorns were removed from a rose’s stem, that the sender meant to suggest love at first sight.

“Extraordinary.” Lennie shook her head.

Taking several minutes to arrange the flowers in the vase, Lennie tried to convince herself that they were real. It all seemed so fantastic to her that until she rose and gently brushed her nose against the soft blossoms did she allow herself to believe that this man—this Earl—had really sent such a sweet and moving token to her.

Giving herself a moment to regain her composure, Lennie rang the service bell and, while waiting, continued to study her gift.

“Yes, Miss.” Gerard smiled as he entered the room.

“Gerard…” Lennie shook her head to bring herself to reality. “Have you had any word of His Grace?”

“I took a moment to check in with the doctor not too long ago, and ‘e feels certain His Grace will survive this unharmed. He and Gamilla are keepin’ close watch over ‘im.”

“I’m glad. I’ll join them in a moment.”

“Did you have any luck with Miss Fern? If you don’t mind me askin’.”

“I don’t mind.” Lennie shook her head. “However, I’m afraid I had no luck whatsoever.” She paused. “Gerard, you may speak plainly with me, of course. Do tell me. Do you share Dr. Halifax’s belief that Miss Fern is mad?”

“I do.” Gerard answered softly.

“I see.” Lennie replied. “Do you think there’s any saving her?”

“That’s not for me to say. Dr. Halifax knows better of these things. And, you, Miss.”


“Well, yes, Miss.” Gerard nodded. “Look what you done for Ethel. I don’t know much of these things. I ain’t so very clever, Miss. I just know what I see. If she’d been left alone after seein’ our poor Jenny killed, she may not have ever gotten her sense back. But, you helped her, and made her come back to us. She gets better each day, and we all know it’s thanks to you. Also, if you’ll ‘xcuse me for bringin’ it up, we all know of Mr. Roger Barrett and his troubles, yet, Dr. Halifax says that you’re able to calm him and soothe his heated mind. I know that to say someone is mad is unfair. Madness takes many different forms. Don’t it? Some would say that His Grace is mad for the way he talks and the way he thinks. None of us here think so, only, well… we know what he is, and why, and we know that what some would call madness is really just his way of bein’ strong. Madness has many faces, I think. Dr. Halifax has told me his mother was mad. She were the sort of mad where a person don’t know where she is or what she is. And, then, there’s madness like, if you’ll forgive me, Mr. Barrett got. Kind o’ like His Grace, Roger is. But where the Duke’s got control, Mr. Barrett don’t. Maybe it’ll come in time, and if it does, it’ll come because you taught it to ‘im.”

Lennie nodded. “I appreciate your faith in me.”

“We’re all so grateful you’re here, Miss.” Gerard nodded.

“How would you classify Miss Fern, then?” Lennie asked.


“Would you say that Miss Fern is unsalvageable in the way that Dr. Halifax has described his mother? Would you say she has hope like Ethel? Or…with much work, a chance like my cousin, Roger?”

“Well, I couldn’t say ‘xcept that I know she ain’t the kind of mad that’s good and kind. Like His Grace. Like I said, some would say he was mad. But, it’s that madness what makes him so gentle and good, also strong and brave. It’s that madness what takes away all them things what makes a powerful man like the Duke be cruel. His Grace is simple. I don’t mean he’s a fool. He’s a clever, talented man. But, his way of lookin’ at things is clear, it is. And, that make shim good. That’s not what Miss Fern’s got. Hers makes her…and I ain’t saying, Miss, that she don’t got a good reason for it…”

“Wicked.” Lennie nodded.

“I hate to say it of a child,” Gerard shook his head, his speech become less and less formal as he became m ore comfortable. “Only, well, don’t she remind you of anyone?”

“Her mother?” Lennie asked.

“In a way. Her grandmother, too.”

“I never knew the Countess Hamish.”

“Lucky, you are.” Gerard nodded. “Only I don’t mean her.”

“Orpha Polk?”

“Yes, Miss.” Gerard answered.

“They are related.” Lennie sighed. “Sad as it is, Orpha is Fern’s aunt.”

“And the baron her father.” Gerard continued. “I think she tends to take after that side of the family. Sometimes a body can’t help it.”

“I see.” Lennie nodded.

“All I know, Miss, is that if anyone can ‘elp the girl it’s you and His Grace and the Doctor. As I see it, she’s lucky. She’s got three folk to see after her. His Grace with his kindness and forgiveness and understandin’, you with your gentleness, and the doctor with his patience and cleverness.”

“I hope so.” Lennie nodded. She brightened. “I nearly forgot why I’d called you in here. I’ve received this parcel and wanted to make sure that Ethel and Maude and Ruthy were given the paper and ribbon. They’re welcome to the box, too, if they’d like it.”

“They’ll be pleased, Miss.” Gerard smiled. “And such pretty flowers you’ve gotten.”

“May I confide in you?” Lennie blushed. “This is the first time I’ve ever received flowers.”

“I’m sure it won’t be the last, Miss.” Gerard smiled.

“Oh, well…”

“Just don’t get yourself married too soon, we’d like to keep you here for awhile more.” Gerard said. He looked at the floor. “Maybe I oughtn’t say that. Mr. Speaight says I shouldn’t be so familiar and take advantage of the Duke’s kindness.”

“I won’t tell.” Lennie smiled. “Thank you, Gerard.”

“Miss, if His…when His Grace wakes up, tell ‘im we’re all thinkin’ of ‘im downstairs.” Gerard said as he picked up the box, paper and ribbon.

“I will.” Lennie replied. She paused. “Gerard, I just want to tell you that you’re much more clever than you think.”

“Nah.” Gerard shook his head. “Only clever thing I ever done was askin’ my Gamilla to be my wife.”

“Well, she was very wise to agree.” Lennie nodded. “Very wise indeed.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-301 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 303.


Darcy said...

Beautiful chapter! A great way to express what friends and family are really all about.

Joseph Crisalli said...

Thank you, Darcy.

Matt said...

That's right. I think it is really great that Lennie is getting some loving. I thought the talk with Gerard was sweet.

Joseph Crisalli said...

Thanks, Matt!