Lady and Gentlemen
“I say,” Matthew smiled as Lennie entered the drawing room. Punch, Robert and the Earl all stood as she came toward them. “Lady Fallbridge, you look…well, your dress is just lovely, and…well…”
“Thank you.” Lennie blushed. “I see my brother has told you about today’s visit to the palace.”
“I think it’s just smashing.” Matthew nodded. “And, the honor suits you, Lady Fallbridge. Both of you.” He turned to Robert. “I’m so pleased to have met you finally, Lord Colinshire.”
“And, I, you.” Robert nodded.
“Of course,” Matthew continued nervously, “His Grace and I have met previously, though I’m sure you don’t remember.”
“I am quite sorry to say that I do not.” Mr. Punch replied, affecting Julian’s manner for the sake of the Earl.
“Well, I say, an important gentleman would not be able to recall all of those he’s met.”
Mr. Punch nodded.
“Gentlemen, do sit.” Lennie smiled. She demurely placed herself upon a small balloon-back chair. Matthew gazed at her.
Punch could see at once that Lennie was anxious, and, so, he tried to distract the Earl’s attention.
“Lord Cleaversworth,” Punch began, using Julian’s voice.
“Oh, please, Your Grace, call me Matthew. Whenever I’m called Lord Cleaversworth, it makes me feel that I’m quite older than I really am.”
“As you wish,” Punch nodded. “And, you may call me…” he paused. What could Matthew call him? He was uncomfortable being referred to as ‘Julian’ because he wasn’t Julian. He didn’t mind being addressed as the Duke of Fallbridge because it was a role which he had solely filled. However, even though he shared Julian’s body, he wasn’t Julian. He was Punch.
Robert, sensing Punch’s dilemma, spoke up. “Perhaps Matthew could use the affectionate name which Lennie and I use for you, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“I would not mind at all.” Punch shook his head with relief.
“Oh? What’s that?”
“When His Grace and I met, I took to calling him, ‘Mr. Punch.’” Robert smiled.
“Punch?” Matthew smiled.
“Yes,” Mr. Punch nodded.
“As is the puppet?” Matthew asked.
“That is correct.” Robert replied.
“May I ask why?”
“Robert?” Punch looked to his companion.
“Well,” Robert cleared his throat. “His Grace has long been an aficionado of the art of puppetry and has a special fondness for Punchinello. Furthermore, he exhibits, quite often, a rather impish glint in his eye which puts one in mind of ‘Old Red Nose’ and his mischievous grin.”
“How charming.” Matthew smiled.
“I’ve even taken to referring to my brother as ‘Mr. Punch.’” Lennie spoke up. “Even Her Majesty herself, just this very afternoon, did so.”
“Well, then, I’m honored to be included in such an exclusive group.” Matthew said earnestly. “If His Grace is certain he wouldn’t mind.”
“I’d be delighted if you would.” Punch replied.
“Very well, Mr. Punch.” Matthew nodded. “I say, what a lark.” He paused. “I should confess, Your…Mr. Punch…that I was quite intimidated to meet you again today.”
“I?” Punch raised his eyebrows. “Whatever for?”
“To be honest, your association with the crown is well-known. You’re the Queen’s favorite and held in such regard by the court. Furthermore, your reputation as a gentleman has become legendary. Many speak of your kindness and altruism. Furthermore, your influence within Parliament, and your wealth, set you apart from other men. Not to mention the fact that, as a jeweler, you are considered unmatched.”
“How flattering.” Punch nodded. “I was under the impression that most of Westminster was abuzz with talk of my madness.”
Matthew blushed. “I’ve heard those rumors as well, I will admit, but those are words spoken out of jealousy from less than reliable sources. No one of any substance would take such slander to heart.”
“I’m glad to know it.” Punch answered.
“And, of course, Lord Colinshire….”
“Well, Robert is considered the finest doctor in the City of Westminster, another favorite of the Queen.” Matthew continued. “And, to be frank, I do so want you both to like me. Yet, I have no real accomplishments to my credit.” He flushed. “I…I have a tendency to say whatever comes into my mind. Please forgive me.”
“It is, in my estimation, an admirable quality.” Mr. Punch said gently. “One that makes a man rather transparent. It’s something of which I myself am often guilty. Furthermore, I know that it’s a quality which my sister finds most endearing.”
“So many, I find, have hidden plots and schemes.” Lennie added. “I find a man who speaks what he feels to be refreshing.”
“I say, that does my heart good.” Matthew answered.
“Ah, here’s our tea. Our Mrs. Pepper has been hard at work preparing all of our favorite treasures,” Punch said.
Speaight rolled the tea trolley into the drawing room, followed by Charles who carried a tall stand of sumptuously decorated cakes, scones, petit fore, and candies.
“Lovely.” Matthew smiled.
“Our Mrs. Pepper is undoubtedly the finest cook in Belgravia.” Lennie grinned.
“I’m sure I’ll enjoy all of it.”
They sat in silence as Charles and Speaight set up the tea.
“I’ll play mother,” Lennie nodded at Speaight.
“As you please, Your Ladyship.” Speaight nodded.
Charles made a point to catch Lennie’s eye before exiting, smiling his approval of Matthew. Lennie giggled quietly.
“I say, look at those sandwiches.” Matthew inhaled hungrily. “There’s nothing more that I like than a good sandwich. Well, perhaps breakfast. I’ve a special fondness for breakfast.”
“Do you?” Punch’s eyes widened. “Eggs, sausages, beans, toasted bread.”
“I do enjoy a good breakfast myself.” Punch said happily.
“I confess, I just like to eat.” Matthew blushed.
Lennie looked up from pouring the tea and grinned at Punch and Robert.
“Matthew,” Robert said, “I do think we shall all be very good friends.”
“I am most certain of it.” Punch agreed.
“I’m so glad to be in the favor of such important gentlemen.” Matthew blushed. “Perhaps, one day, their esteemed sister will…”
“I already do.” Lennie interrupted.
“I say…” Matthew nodded happily. “Jolly good.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-326 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 328.