Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 305

Chapter 305 

Head of the Family 

Come,” Robert replied to the knock on the door to the Duke’s bedchamber. Gamilla entered, looking concerned.

“Pardon me, Sir. Ruthy’s sittin’ with Master Colin, so I thought I’d come and see how His Grace was farin’.”

“No change,” Robert shook his head and squeezed Punch’s hand. Robert, still dressed in deep blue suit of clothes he’d worn all day, had taken his usual spot in the bed next to Mr. Punch while Lennie had pulled a chair close to the side of the bed.

“I see you got him in his night clothes, so he’d be comfortable.” Gamilla said softly.

Robert nodded. “Charles helped me.” He glanced over at Punch, and reached over to brush the long wisps of his auburn fringe from his companion’s eyes. “I can’t be sure how long His Grace will remain asleep, however, his body’s responses are as they should be and he shows no signs of being in danger.”

“Thank the stars.” Gamilla inhaled. “I’ll leave you in peace, then.”

“No, no.” Lennie shook her head. “Stay a moment. I was just telling Robert about our afternoon adventures.”

“Oh.” Gamilla nodded.

“Could it be true? Did our lovely little sister really strike the baron in the face?” Robert asked Gamilla, teasing in a fraternal way.

“She did, Sir.” Gamilla smiled slightly. “And got him brought to Orpha Polk.”

“They deserve one another.” Robert said firmly. “Either as brother and sister or…whatever else. The whole family is raving mad.”

“That includes Miss Fern. As the child of the baron, she’s also niece to Orpha Polk.” Gamilla sighed.

“Let’s hope that Fern outgrows this phase of her life. After all,” Lennie began, “heredity only counts for so much. Doesn’t it?”

“That’s the question.” Robert replied. “Is such madness learned or is it passed through the blood?”

“I can’t speak for Orpha and Victor, of course, because I don’t know their parents.” Lennie answered, “however, I can speak for myself. My mother was the Duchess of Fallbridge—by all accounts, a sadistic and cruel woman, and my father, Johnny Donnan, is a monster who openly tortured his own son, Finlay.” Lennie paused for a moment, thinking of Finlay. “I only spoke to Finlay a few times before he died, but, you all tell me that he was just as peculiar and fiendish as Johnny Donnan. He was raised by the man. I was not. Finlay was cruel, and I am not. Both Punch and I have the same mother. Punch is not a sadist as the Duchess was. Nor am I.”

“By your logic,” Robert spoke up, “that such behavior is learned and not inherited, Punch should be just as cruel and debauched as his mother was. Furthermore, his nanny—kin to Ulrika Rittenhouse, I should remind everyone—was as demented as the Duchess, if not more so. Reared by such people, Punch, if we follow your assertion, should be as barbarous as they.”

“Yes, but Punch had the influence of Sir Colin, his father.” Lennie smiled.

“As did Lady Barbara.” Robert countered. “And, yet, Punch’s other sister developed into as lost a soul as the Duchess.”

“However, by the time Barbara was growing up, hadn’t Sir Colin begun to spend most of his time abroad on his archaeological digs?”

“May I say something?” Gamilla asked.

“Certainly, Gamilla.” Robert nodded.

“Maybe each person…well, maybe he becomes whatever he is because that’s what he is. Maybe it’s that each person becomes what he’s gotta be. You both speak of his Grace, and you talk of him as bein’ Mr. Punch. I know that’s what he is and, if I may say so, I love him for it. But, well…Mr. Punch done grew inside of His Grace…because he had to. His Grace weren’t always Mr. Punch. He had to be so because it was his way of bein’ safe. Ain’t no one else in his family that’s like him, and he didn’t learn how to make them other folk inside himself. He done it on his own, to protect himself, because that’s what he was. It’s what he is.”

“A very interesting point, Gamilla.” Lennie nodded.

“Thank you, Miss. It’s the same for you. You, Miss Lennie done grew up into the lady you are because that’s who you are. And…well, I hope I ain’t outta line by sayin’ this, but, Dr. Halifax, you done tol’ me how your mama was ill and how your papa had troubles with money. You, Sir, are a healthy, responsible man as is your brother. I think folk like Orpha Polk and Miss Rittenhouse and the like are just bad folk. They was born bad and’ll stay bad because that’s just what they is. I seen bad folk born to good people and I seen good folk born to bad people. Now, that may not be somethin’ that’s learned nor…well…maybe it ain’t even something that’s passed in the blood like the color of a body’s hair and eyes or skin. Maybe, when each person is made, that part of him is just what it is. That part don’t change. It stays—always. What changes is the way that part grows as things happen to a body.”

“That’s a very thoughtful and considerate answer, Gamilla. And, I don’t disagree with you.” Robert smiled

“In the end, it don’t really matter what a person is, just that he is and what he does. If I’d not been taken from Africa by them men, I’d have had a different life. I’d not have suffered the same things nor had the same joys. But, I’d still think and feel the same things I do. Look at what Miss Lennie done today. She was brave and strong. That’s because that’s what she is—inside her. If Miss Lennie’d been only able to act the way she was taught, she’d have been weak and…well, I don’t know the word. And, if she’d been only able to act the way her mama and papa acted, she’d have been cruel, not brave.”

“And had she not been so brave, she’d not have attracted the attentions of the Earl of Cleaversworth.” Robert teased.

“Oh, Robert.” Lennie blushed. She turned away from him. “Gamilla, I think you’re a very wise woman, and I thank you for sharing your philosophy with us. We should ask you more such questions.”

“I concur.” Robert nodded. “We’ve much to learn from you.”

“Oh, I don’t know ‘bout all that.” Gamilla shook her head. “I ain’t educated like you, Dr. Halifax. I only know what I feel, not what’s true.”

“I think, more often than not, what you feel is the truth, Gamilla.” Robert replied. “And, since you speak the truth, let me ask you a question about this Earl who has sent a floral tribute to our Lennie.”

“Did, he Miss?” Gamilla’s eyes brightened.

“Yes.” Lennie looked away self-consciously.

“May I see?” Gamilla asked.

“They’re in the morning room.” Lennie said softly.

“So…is he handsome?” Robert asked.

“He’s…” Gamilla began. “Yes, I’d say he is. To be true, he ain’t got the beautiful face and figure of you and His Grace, nor is he tough and sturdy like my Gerard, but, he’s got a gentle and dignified look ‘bout him. He looks kind and his is the open face of an honest man.”

“Now, now, we needn’t discuss this any further,” Lennie interrupted.

“Why not? I should like to know more about the man. After all, we may be related…in our way…one day.”

“Pardon?” Lennie blushed.

“Perhaps you should invite him to the reception which will follow the upcoming marriage of Gamilla and Gerard. It might inspire him to ask for your hand.”

“Aren’t you all rather getting ahead of yourselves? I’ve only just met Matthew today and spent all of twenty minutes with him.”

“It’s Matthew, then, is it?” Robert smiled.

“That is his Christian name.” Lennie sniffed. “That I know the man’s name is hardly cause to start planning the next wedding.”

“Oh, very well. We shan’t tease you any longer.” Robert winked.

“I’d best get back to the nursery. Thank you for lettin’ me check on His Grace and for listenin’ to me talk like a fool.”

“Not at all like a fool.” Robert shook his head. “By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask. How is Ruthy working out for you?”

“So far, she done real well on her first day. Colin seems to like her fine, too.”

“I’m glad.” Robert nodded. “Maybe Fern will take to her as well. After all, she’ll be with Fern more often than not.”

“We can only hope.” Gamilla answered. As she was about to turn to leave, she paused and studied the face of the Duke.

Robert noticed Gamilla’s glance and also looked at Punch.

“His eyes is flutterin’!” Gamilla exclaimed.

Robert stroked Punch’s forehead. “Dear Punch…my dear…are you waking?”

Punch snorted. “Coo.”

“Praise be!” Gamilla whooped.

“Robert?” Punch rasped.

“I’m here, dear Punch. Lennie and Gamilla are, too.”

“Are you well?” Punch mumbled.

“Now that you’re awake, I’m very well.” Robert grinned.


“In his room.” Robert nodded.

“Dog Toby?”

“With Master Colin in the nursery, Sir.” Gamilla answered.

Punch opened his eyes fully and looked up at Robert. “Hullo, Chum.”

“Good evening, dear Punch.” Robert sighed happily.

“I got a question, I do.” Punch mumbled.

“I’ll tell you all that’s happened to you, and why you’re in your bed when last you were in the library, as soon as you’re a bit more alert, my dear.”

“No, no…not that.” Punch replied.

“What is it, dear Punch?”

“It’s just that before Lennie gets married, this bloke’s gotta ask me permission. I’m the head of the family, I am.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-304 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 306.


Dashwood said...

Really lovely scene with very likeable, real people.

How very nicely done!

Joseph Crisalli said...

Thank you, Dashwood!