Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 325

Chapter 325 
And So Say All of Us 

Punch took a silent inventory of the faces he saw as he, Robert and Lennie descended into the servants’ hall. All but Gamilla and Ruthy were present as they were in their proper place in the nursery. Ethel, George and Maudie had formed a circle around Fern, containing the disheveled girl in the nook in which the hearth was set.

Fern at once saw Punch and the others enter.

“Stay seated, please.” Punch said quickly. He took a deep breath to allow himself time to decide how he would speak. Since Maudie had already heard his natural manner of speaking, and since the newest member of the staff, Ruthy, wasn’t present, he decided to remain as “Mr. Punch.”

“As ya can see,” Punch began, “we’ve come back from the palace. We got some good news for all of ya. And, let’s not forget, we got the Earl of Cleaversworth comin’ for tea. So, we ain’t got time for no foolishness. We’re gonna have a pleasant day, we are.”

From their various spots around the hall, the staff smiled at Mr. Punch.

He continued. “I see we got Fern back.”

The smiles quickly faded.

“Fern,” Punch shook his head. “Why’d you come back? You was so ready to be rid of us that you run ‘way.”

“It was horrible, Uncle Punch.” Fern replied, craning her neck to see past the three who confined her.

“Was it, then?” Punch nodded. “I hate to hear it.”

“They killed my father!” Fern cried.

“The Baron Lensdown is dead?” Lennie asked.

“Yes, Miss.” Fern nodded.

Lennie shut her eyes. She had been the one to alert Ulrika that the baron had been nearby. Her stomach sank as she blamed herself for the man’s death.

Punch sighed. “I’m sorry for you. And, also sorry for Lady Lensdown and her children. Does the baroness know of her husband’s death?”

“I don’t know.”

“We shall send her a letter, then.” Robert spoke up. “And, remind her that she has the strength to be the head of her own household.”

“Poor Gertrude,” Lennie mumbled.

“She’s better off without him.” Robert whispered.

“My mother is dead, my father is dead.” Fern continued. “Those women tortured me. Please take me back, Uncle Punch.”

“I’m your Uncle Punch, again, am I?” Punch narrowed his eyes.

“Yes. I’m sorry.”

“I reckon you are.” Punch nodded.

“So, I can stay?”

“No.” Punch shook his head. “You’ve been given your chance, you have. Many a chance, in fact. Only you didn’t want to be here.”

“But, I do!”

“It’s too late.” Punch answered. “Fern, I gotta think of our son. I gotta think of my companion and our sister and these fine folks what live here and are our friends.”

“I’ll be good.”

“You said that before yet you put us all in the path of harm, you did. Givin’ me med’cin what coulda hurt me, that were bad. But, you set fire to your bed! You burned poor Violet. And, you did it right by the room where my son sleeps. You coulda burned up the whole house and killed us all. You can’t be here. I just can’t let ya.”

“You’ll send me to the asylum, then?”

“Ain’t that what you deserve?” Punch asked.

The room was silent as everyone in it held their breath.

“Is that what you think?” Fern answered quietly.

“I’ll tell ya what I think.” Punch nodded. “But, first. I’d like to see what everyone else thinks, I would. Mrs. Pepper, we know Fern can’t stay ‘ere. Do ya think she should be sent to an asylum?”

Mrs. Pepper widened her eyes, surprised to be asked for her opinion on something so important. “Well, Your Grace, no, I don’t. She’s just a child and she’s time to change her ways.”

“Thank you,” Punch replied. “Speaight?”

“Yes, Your Grace, I think she should be sent to an asylum.” Speaight answered.

“Charles?” Punch asked.

“Asylum.” Charles said curtly.


“Asylum.” Gerard replied firmly.


Violet turned and looked at Fern. “You hurt me very bad, little girl. I don’t think me arms will ever look pretty ‘gain.” She sighed and turned to Mr. Punch. “But, no, I don’t think she should be sent to an asylum. She’s ‘ad a wretched life. Ain’t no use makin’ it worse.”

Punch nodded. “Georgie?”

Georgie sighed. “I think she’s a wicked girl. But, I agree with mum. She shouldn’t be sent to a place like that.”


“I couldn’t say, Sir.” Maude shook her head. “If it were me what was in her place, I’d try terrible hard to be good so I’d not have to go to such a place.”

“Well said, Maudie.” Punch smiled. “What of you, Ethel?”

“I know a bit of what this girl has seen.” Ethel said. “She needs someone to help ‘er. But, not in an asylum.”

“Thank you all.” Punch nodded. “We three,” Punch gestured to Lennie and Robert have already discuss this, but I wanted to find out what you all thought before I said.” Punch went to stand by Robert. “Would you like to tell Fern what we are gonna do?”

“Very well.” Robert replied. “Fern, your benefactor is very kind. His Grace feels that you should be sent to a school for girls. A fine school where you’ll learn many things and have a chance to make friends with other girls your age. This is more of a chance than most of us think you should be given, but His Grace is quite adamant about it. We will send word to the best of schools today to see if you will be accepted. However, should you misbehave, even the slightest bit, should we be sent word that you’ve done anything even remotely wrong or odd, you’ll be taken from there and sent to an asylum. Do you understand?”

“I do.”

“This is your final chance, Fern.” Lennie added. “I beg of you, take it seriously.”

“I will.” Fern nodded.

“Until you are accepted, you’re to stay at a private set of rooms which we’ll hire for you, under the watch of a nurse who will be with you at all times.” Robert continued. “We cannot allow you to stay here. In time, perhaps, if you show improvement…in time…we may allow you to visit here. Perhaps, even, you might spend holidays here, IF you show that you’ve managed to keep yourself under control. His Grace will pay for all of your expenses out of his own generosity. Any monies left you through the Hamish estate will be held in trust for you until you reach eighteen years.

Fern began to cry. “Thank you.”

“Now, that is all the time we intend to spend on this subject. Georgie, will you take this letter for us?” Robert asked

Georgie rose. “Yes, Dr. Halifax.”

“Fern, is there any need for you to be contained as you are?” Robert narrowed his eyes.

“No, Sir.” Fern replied.

“Where shall I take the letter?” Georgie asked.

“The address is there. However, you’ve been there before. It’s the same house where Miss Lennie’s cousin, Roger, is kept.” Robert answered.

“Oh, it’s a very nice place, Fern. You’ll be quite comfortable there until you’re ready for school.”

“Will they find me?” Fern asked.

“Who?” Punch raised his eyebrows. “Miss Polk and Miss Rittenhouse?”


“No.” Punch shook his head. “Our primary concern is that they not find you. That’s another reason that you cannot stay here.”

Fern nodded.

“Right, then.” Robert spoke up. “Georgie, before you go, we would like everyone together in one spot for a moment. Gerard, would you run upstairs and fetch Gamilla. Tell her that Ruthy should stay with Colin for a few moments. Gamilla will tell her later what we’ve discussed.”

“Back in a tick, Sir.”

“What’s it all about, Dr. Halifax?” Mrs. Pepper asked.

“Oh, you shall see. His Grace wishes to make an announcement.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-324 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 326. 

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