Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 317

Chapter 317 

I feel like I’ve not had a bite of food in a day,” Mr. Punch muttered as he hungrily heaped piles of eggs and sausages on his plate.

“You haven’t.” Robert smiled.

Punch brought his plate across the morning room and sat next to Robert. “I s’pose I’ve not. Foolish girl, makin’ me sleep all day.” He shook his head. “Well, I aim to make up for it now.”

“Pace yourself, dear Punch.” Robert warned. “It’s no use trying to overeat. All you’ll do is make yourself sick.”

“I feel fine.” Punch grinned, buttering a point of toast. He looked up at Lennie who sat across from them. “But, what about you, Len, you’ve not eaten a thing. Want me to fix a plate for ya?”

“Oh, no. Not yet.” Lennie shook her head, still studying the letter from the Earl of Cleaversworth.

“You’ve done nothing but read and re-read that letter for the last half an hour.” Robert winked.

“I must respond to him, but I don’t know how.” She sighed. “I don’t suppose…”

“Oh, no.” Robert shook his head. “You’ve come to the wrong party where courtship is concerned.”

“Brother dear?” Lennie smiled.

“No.” Punch replied, swallowing a gulp of egg. “Don’t know a thing.”

“Well, I realize that it’s different, but, surely the two of you had some kind of courtship.”

Robert and Punch looked at one another.

“No.” Punch shrugged.

“Not really.” Robert grinned.

Lennie frowned. “You didn’t always know each other. You weren’t born a couple.”

“No, His Grace is older than I am.”

“Not by much I ain’t.” Punch scowled playfully.

“You had to have met at some point. How did…I don’t know. How did you get from that moment to this?”

“The first time I saw your brother was in ’51 at the Great Exhibition. I saw him at the Gems and Jewelry Exhibit with Their Majesties. We didn’t speak.”

“Even if we did, it wouldn’t ‘ave done no good. I were not me, then. I were still Julian.” He paused. “Does that make sense?”

“Yes.” Lennie nodded. “Occasionally, I’m struck by the fact that there are still parts of…or…I don’t know how to say it. Aspects of you which I don’t know. Like Julian…”

“Mr. Punch has all of Julian’s talents and knowledge.” Robert answered.

“Sure, you know the best parts of Julian.” Punch nodded.

“So, you saw one another…” Lennie began.

“No. He saw me. Or he saw this body, I should say.” Punch shook his head. “I didn’t see him. The first time we actually met, I were usin’ the body. But, we didn’t talk much then. I’d gone to him for help after we was jumped by robbers who beat us…me.”

“Is that when you knew…that…well, that you loved one another?”

“No.” Punch shrugged. “All I knew was that I was free to use the body, and I didn’t like it much because it was all banged up.”

“But, did you like Robert?” Lennie asked.

“Thought him awful handsome and kind, but wasn’t too interested in knowin’ more than that. All I could think was gettin’ Julian safely outta London.”

“When did you next meet?”

“On the ship to America two years later.” Robert explained.

“And, then, it was me sometimes and Julian others. When it was me, I was too concerned about gettin’ into scrapes with French puppeteers and throwin’ blokes off the side of the ship.”

“How did you become as close as you are?”

“Robert said he was me ‘champion.’ Said he’d protect me. He’d figured out that I’m…” Punch paused. “Don’t know what to call it.”

“No one does, really. But, I knew that you and Julian, and as time went on, were individual minds in one body.”

“And, from then on, we was together all the time.” Punch nodded after taking another bite of food. “We didn’t talk ‘bout courtship or nothin’. We just knew we belonged to one another, forever and always.”

Robert smiled. “It’s true. It needed no explanation. Dear Punch explains it quite well. We simply knew. We knew that without one another, we’d each be nothing.”

“Sure, and by the time Julian retreated completely, and it were me what was the dominant mind, Robert and me knew we loved one another and that was it.”

“That’s very sweet. And, very encouraging, but it doesn’t help me at present.”

“I don’t ‘magine it does.” Punch replied. “Robert and me was together every minute of every day. We saw one another at our best and our worst and knew each other completely.”

“When you have the luxury of that sort of time together, the time to really know one another thoroughly, you need no further explanation. However, a young lady and a gentleman don’t have that luxury. Not in our world. Take Gerard and Gamilla for instance. They’re much like we were. They had the luxury of time together, each day, and the freedom to express whatever they felt for one another, just as Punch and I did. But, you, social convention dictates what you say, and when, and for how long, and in what company.”

“I know.” Lennie sighed. “If I could just say what I feel…but, I can’t.”

“What do ya feel?” Punch grinned.

“Never mind, brother dear.” Lennie answered.

“I suppose it all depends on what you want, Lennie.” Robert replied thoughtfully.

“What I want is…” She blushed. “I want what the two of you have. Robert, you say that without one another, you’d each have nothing. I believe that’s very true. You, together, are whole. Together, you are as close as two people can be. I should like to have that.”

“With this Matthew bloke?” Punch asked.

“Possibly.” Lennie nodded. “But, I don’t know him well enough to say.”

“And, then, you should get to know him.” Robert answered.

“But…time and circumstance aren’t in our favor.” Lennie shook her head.

“What circumstance?” Robert asked.

“All of this foolishness with Orpha and that bizarre American woman and Fern.” Lennie muttered.

“What’s that got to do with you and the Earl of Cleaversworth?” Punch asked.

“It seems inconsiderate for me to even bother speaking of this while we, as a family, have so much which requires our attention. It’s wrong of me to even entertain the thought.”

“It’d be wrong not to!” Punch put down his fork. “Lennie, we want you to be happy. Maybe this bloke can add some happiness to your life. Maybe not. But, it’d be wrong not to find out.”

“Do you really think so.”

“Course I do! Now, I don’t know nothin’ of how ladies and gents court, but maybe you can invite him to tea this afternoon. Robert and me will be there to chaperone, and I’ll be on me best behavior. I’ll even put on me Duke of Fallbridge voice and manners so as not to scare ‘im.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that.”

“I do it every time I talk to anyone from outside of this house. If he’s the bloke for you, then, in time, I’ll be me-self, and he’ll understand it and like me as I am. But, for now, so you can be acquainted with ‘im, I’d be happy to do it. I don’t mind. I’ve gotten good at it.” Punch grinned.

“That you have.” Lennie smiled.

“So, go on. Invite ‘im to tea. We’ll be back from the palace by then. And, we’ll chaperone. Right, Chum?”

“Right. I should like to meet the man.” Robert said. “Lennie, dear, I know we’re not really related, but, I feel for you what I’d feel for any sister-in-law, or, really any sister. I think dear Punch has offered a very sensible solution. Not only can you two become acquainted, but we—your brothers—can see if we approve of him.”

“That’s the way to do it. And, if he comes here and finds us strange because we’re…two blokes…or because I like puppets and talk to statues and ‘ave a funny way ‘bout me, then…”

“Then I’d not want a thing to do with a man who was so narrow in his thinking.” Lennie said firmly. She rose and went to her desk.

“There you go. Write ‘im now and we’ll send Georgie with the letter right ‘way. Only…”

“Yes?” Lennie asked.

“Only, then, you gotta eat somethin’. Makes me nervous, it does. All that food there and you not havin’ a speck.”

“I shall eat a tremendous breakfast, brother dear. I promise.”

“That’s all I ask.” Punch nodded, picking up his fork again. He looked at Robert. “Maybe we know more ‘bout courtship than we thought, Chum.”

Robert chuckled. “I doubt it. In many ways, we had an easy time of it.”

Punch smiled. “I s’pect we did.”

Did you miss Chapters 1 to 316 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 318.

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