Gerard wiped his brow and sniffed. Taking a sip of water, he looked quickly toward the group from upstairs which had gathered in the far corner of the servants’ hall. Her ladyship fussed over Mr. Barrett while the Duke and Lord Colinshire did their best to keep Johnny Donnan from the daughter he gave away.
Georgie came to sit next to Gerard. “Glad you and Charlie came back when you did. We was just tryin’ to figure how to let you know that Mr. Barrett’d been found. Shame there ain’t a way to let a fella know something…like that.” He snapped his fingers.
“Ain’t ever gonna be a way.” Gerard shook his head. “Man wasn’t made to know everything.”
“Guess not.” George smiled. He glanced across the room. “Some folk know nothin’.”
“Everybody knows somethin’.” Gerard sipped his water.
“What of blokes like Mr. Barrett?”
“What of ‘em?”
“How do they get like that?” George asked.
Gerard shrugged. “Who’s to say? Why does anyone get sick?”
“Ain’t like he’s bleedin’ or got sores or anythin’.”
“No, but he’s sick nonetheless. Ain’t his fault. Just like it ain’t the Duke’s fault he is the way he is. Nor your fault when your nose runs.”
“But, it ain’t the same…the way Mr. Barrett is and the way the Duke is. Mr. Barrett scares me, but the Duke is a real treat.”
“The Duke’s got Dr. Halifax…er…his Lordship…to look after ‘im.” Gerard said. “Not every bloke is so lucky. See, Georgie, people are basically horrible. Sure, there’s fine folks like the ones we got ‘ere, but outside this house, folks is basically just rotten. Most folks is out for themselves. If a bloke is real lucky, he can find someone, or even a few folk what aren’t rotten. The Duke’s got that. He’s got his sister, and Dr. Halifax and Colin and all of us. Mr. Barrett’s got no one.”
“Miss Lennie is…I mean, Her Ladyship, looks out for ‘im and he’s got that fella what the Duke keeps to watch ‘im.”
“Ain’t the same thing.” Gerard shook his head.
“You’ve known the Duke a long time.” George began.
“Well, long ‘nough.”
“He talks to you though.”
“Did he ever tell ya…I dunno…what he thinks.”
“Well,” George sighed. “I mean, why he is what he is.”
“You mean why he’s Mr. Punch?”
“Like I said, folk are rotten. All ‘is life, folk was rotten to the Duke. When he was Julian, you know, he couldn’t…he couldn’t handle it. Even though he tried. No matter what he done, everyone criticized ‘im, bullied ‘im, tried to take advantage of ‘im. He ‘ad nowhere to turn, no one to ‘elp. If he were ever upset or whatnot, all it did was upset everyone else. That just made things worse for ‘im. So, he did what he could to help himself, and, out came Mr. Punch who could take care o’ things better. And, then, he met Dr. Halifax, a bloke what finally understood ‘im. But, like I said, most folks ain’t so lucky. Most folks don’t got a Mr. Punch inside ‘em to ‘elp. Most folks don’t never meet someone like Dr….His Lordship or, like me and Gamilla.”
“Like Mr. Barrett?”
“Right.” Gerard replied.
“Sure, Mr. Barrett’s got Miss Lennie and Dr. Halifax to ‘elp ‘im. But, in the end, what he most needs is to be left alone. That’s what I think anyway. Sure, maybe we don’t understand ‘im or what he thinks. Ain’t no fault of ‘is. And, it ain’t no fault o’ ours. But, see, he understands what he thinks…” Gerard paused. “Look at ‘im. He seems ‘appy ‘nough now. I think if he were brought back to ‘is rooms and left to that, he’d be just fine. It’s when he tries to force ‘imself into a world what don’t match ‘im, that he gets to be what the rest of us would call mad. Left to ‘imself, he ain’t.”
“But, ain’t that kinda a sad life? All alone?”
“For you and me, maybe. But, not for ‘im.” Gerard smiled. “He ain’t a bad man. He ain’t a stupid man. He’s got somethin’ good in ‘im what maybe could be of value to all o’ us. All he needs is a chance, and the freedom, to let it out. Least that’s what His Grace and His Lordship believe.”
“What if…” Georgie started.
“Now, George.” Gerard smiled. “Ain’t no use in ‘what if.’”
“No man is perfect. Each o’ us ‘as ‘is flaws. Mine is the drink. You know that. Will I never drink again? I hope not. I don’t want to. Mostly. But, if I ever slip again, I’ll try to fix it and move on.”
“That’d be terrible if you did.”
“Sure.” Gerard grinned. “But, who among us don’t make mistakes? Sometimes you got no choice. And, when you do, you just try to carry on. No use in tearin’ yourself to bits. No use in bein’ beat up.”
“So, you…when you was feelin’ poor, you’d drink. The drink was sorta for you what Mr. Punch is for the Duke?”
“That’s right.” Gerard nodded. “Everyone’s got somethin’. Some folk scream and shout to feel better. Some drink. Some hide. Some cry. Some try to blame everyone and anyone. Ain’t one way what a person takes care of himself when he’s sad or scared. Ain’t that so?”
“It is.” George answered.
“Somethin’ troublin’ you, George?”
“There’s a bloke from one o’ the other houses.”
“He’s a big fella, a page. He’s always lurkin’ ‘bout in the mews. Hassles me.”
“Dunno.” George answered softly.
“He ain’t laid hands on ya?”
“No.” Georgie shook his head. “Just taunts me, ya know.”
“So, when I got an errand, sometimes, I go all the way ‘round the other way. Ya know…to the other side of the square so I don’t gotta pass ‘im. Makes me feel like a coward.”
“We all feel like that.”
“I just don’t wanna hear ‘im tease me no more.”
“Gerry, I ain’t never told no one this, but when he scares me like he does, I think…”
“It’s all right, George.”
“Well, I just wanna make it go ‘way. But, since I’m a coward, I can’t. So, I feel bad ‘bout me-self.”
“Can’t change the world, Georgie. Can’t make anyone do anything.”
“I’m ashamed just sayin’ it.” George whispered.
“I don’t want you to think I’m a coward.”
“I never would.”
“And, if I tell ma, she’ll be upset, and…”
“George,” Gerard smiled. “Remember earlier you asked me how a man can get to be like Mr. Barrett?”
“No do ya understand?”
“I do. I think.” George nodded. “Thanks for lettin’ me talk to ya.”
“You can always talk with me.” Gerard said.
“I’m glad.” George said. “Guess, I’m lucky, too.”
“All of us ‘ere are.” Gerard answered.
“Pity ‘bout Mr. Barrett.”
“Oh, I dunno.” Gerard shrugged. “He ain’t lost.”
“No, son. None of us is. Just so long as we got one thing.”
“What’s that, Gerry?”
“Sure, when a bloke’s got more time, there’s nothin’ he can’t do.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-330 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 332.