Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 321

Chapter 321 

Oy!” George shouted after Fern. “Stop!”

But, Fern would not stop. She raced to the service staircase with George in close pursuit.

“Help me, would ya?” George shouted to Maude and Ethel.

“We can’t go up there!” Maude responded. “Not without permission!”

“Right now, ya can!” George said.

Ethel and Maudie followed Georgie up the stairs. George lunged for Fern, but she made it through the foyer door before he could grab her.

“Wretched thing!” Georgie spat.

George, Ethel and Maudie stumbled into the foyer, but Fern was nowhere to be seen.

“Maybe she went upstairs.” Maude suggested.

“She ain’t that quick.” Georgie shook his head. “We’d still see her little wicked feet.”

“Maybe she’s in the morning room.” Maude continued.

“We’d ‘ave ‘eard the door close.” George replied. “She’s in her somewhere.”

The three of them scanned the foyer, looking under the sweep of the dramatic staircase. Suddenly, Ethel grabbed Georgie’s arm and put her finger to her lips.

“Well,” Ethel began. “She’s too smart for us. Or maybe she’s a witch like Mrs. Pepper thinks. Turned ‘erself into air itself.” Hiding her body behind Maudie, Ethel mouthed to George, “Potted palm.” As George turned to look, Ethel shook her head.

“Guess all we can do is call for the beadle.” Ethel continued. “Seems a shame, too. They’ll put her in gaol. That’s far worse than an’thing I can think of. It’s all that sad, it is. ‘Specially since His Grace and Dr. Halifax was willin’ to give ‘er a fine ‘ome where she’d ‘a’ been ever-so comfortable.” She clucked her tongue. “Pity.”

Maudie casually turned and saw a bit of Fern’s tattered dress peeking out from behind the large potted palm which stood to the left of the morning room door. Quickly realizing what Ethel was doing, she chimed in.

“No, Ethel, they won’t send her to gaol.” Maudie smiled.

“Well, she aon’t gonna go to no workhouse.” Ethel answered, playing along. “Not that, no. See, she’s a criminal. She burned ‘er own bed, she hurt our Vi, she poisoned His Grace, she ruined poor Gamilla’s weddin’ dress. Sounds like gaol’s the best place for her.”

“But, they only send girls to gaol when there’s a chance they’ll…what’s it called…?” Maude scratched her head.

“Reform?” Georgie suggested.

“Right.” Maudie nodded.

“Well, what’ll they do with ‘er?” Ethel asked.

“Hmmmm…seein’ as she’s a witch, and seein’ as she tried to kill the Duke of Fallbridge, I s’pose they’d take ‘er to the Tower.”

“Oh.” Ethel nodded. “Right.”

George joined the discussion. “Chop ‘er head off?”

“After.” Ethel replied.

“After what?” George smiled.

“Well, we all seen them awful machines and such they got in the Tower. Sure. They’d put ‘er on that bed of nails first. And, then in that thing shaped like a lady, but all full o’ spikes.”

“And, then the rack!” Maude piped up.

“Right.” Ethel replied. “And, when she could stand no more, then…then they’d chop ‘er head off. Pity, pity. She coulda ‘ad it so fine here.”

“Ain’t our concern.” Maudie shook her head.

“Right.” Ethel repeated. “Georgie, go and fetch the beadle, would ya? We’ll stand here at the stairs to make sure she don’t get up there to hurt no more o’ the fine folk in this ‘ouse.”

“Back in a tick.” Georgie nodded.

“Wait!” Fern screamed, coming out from behind the palm. “Don’t do that! Don’t let them cut off my head!”

“Oh, there’s the little witch now.” George said.

“Please don’t fetch the beadle.” Fern pleaded.

“Why shouldn’t I?” George scowled. “Ain’t all them things we said…them things what you done, ain’t they true?”

“They are.” Fern whispered.

“Sure, then. You ain’t welcome in this ‘ouse. No other place for ya than to go with the beadle. ‘Less you wanna go back to Hamish House.” George said firmly. “And, seems ya don’t since ya run ‘way from there. Didn’t ya?”

“You don’t know what went on there.” Fern cried.

“And, I don’t much care. Was your choice, it was. You made all sorts of kerfuffle here even after you was given chance after chance. And, then, to kick the Duke when ‘e was down, you run ‘way from here, screamin’ all the way like we was all out to harm ya.” Georgie shook his head.

“Let me stay.” Fern sobbed.

“Ain’t my place to let no one do nothin’ ‘ere.” George answered. “Lucky, I am. Lucky we all are to be ‘ere with the masters. I sure ain’t gonna do nothin’ to make ‘em upset. Lettin’ you stay ‘ere ain’t my concern.”

“I’ll work. I’ll clean. I’ll…scrub.”

“Ain’t my place to hire no one. That’s Mr. Speaight’s place, and even then, he needs the Duke’s permission.”

“Let me speak to the Duke, then.”

“He ain’t ‘ere.” Ethel snapped.

“Then, the doctor. Or Miss Molliner.”

“They’ve all gone to the palace.” Ethel smirked.

“I’m goin’ to get the beadle.” Georgie frowned. “Try not to set the ‘ouse on fire while I’m gone.”

“Please!” Fern screamed. She rushed to Ethel. “You know what she’s like. That Orpha! She killed your friend!”

“Don’t speak o’ my Jenny.” Ethel answered sharply. “You’re kin to that Orpha, as you call ‘er. You’re ‘er niece. Miss Molliner told me. You’re just as wicked as she.”

“She killed my father!” Fern cried.

“All the sick things what’s passed with that woman. I don’t wanna hear of it.” Ethel said.

“Please, please let me stay. Lock me in the scullery until the Duke gets back.”

“In the scullery? With me? I think not.” Ethel scowled.

“If…if you don’t…I’ll…”

“You’ll what?” George scowled.

“I’ll kill myself. Just like my mother did.”

“Not if the beadle gets ya first.” George headed for the door.

“Please!” Fern shouted again. “I watched them feed my father to that monster…Marduk. Just like they did with the blood of your friend Jenny.”

“Don’t say her name!” Ethel screamed. “You ain’t fit to say ‘er name!”

Fern spun away from Ethel and rushed to the sideboard to the right of the morning room door. She grabbed a Bristol glass vase, smashing it on the side of the piece of furniture. She held a jagged shard to her throat.

“My blood will be on your hands.”

“I’m getting’ the beadle.” George repeated.

“Wait!” Ethel and Maudie said in unison.

Did you miss Chapters 1-320 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 322. 

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