Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 334

Chapter 334 
The Middle One 

You may leave us, Ulrika.” Orpha gestured to the parlor door with her stump.

“I don’t think I should.” Ulrika shook her head.

“I’m not frightened of this man.” Orpha replied. “Furthermore, I need you, Ulrika, to see to it that Fern hasn’t managed to free herself again.”

“She couldn’t possibly.” Ulrika shook her head. “I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Who knew, really, that there was a false wall between those two wardrobes? However, I’m delighted to say that Fern will not find a way out this time.”

“Still, I’d be relieved.” Orpha nodded.

“Very well.” Ulrika sighed. “You just cry out if this wretch lays one hand on you.” She chuckled. “One hand. At least it would be an even match.”

“Clever.” Orpha nodded.

“I shan’t be long.” Ulrika replied.

“Take your time.” Orpha answered.

Finally alone with Johnny Donnan, Orpha raised her eyebrows. “Here we are, Mr. Donnan. Reunited. Why have you come?”

“What’s happened to ya?” Johnny pointed to her missing hand.

“Nothing that I didn’t earn.” Orpha smiled. “So, have you come to take the other one?”

“I came to see ya because I thought maybe ya might like to…” He paused.


“Let me be your da’.”

Orpha laughed. “You do remember that I’m not really your daughter?”

“My own don’t want nothin’ to do with me.”

“She’s a strange one.” Orpha nodded. “All that time I spent with her was excruciating. She’s so sweet and gentle. She seems to have been made all the more cloying by her association with those mandrakes. You’re fortunate she wants nothing to do with you.”

“Aye, but you’re not so sweet, are ya?”

“Not at all, no.” Orpha grinned.

“We’re a good match.”

“Even I have limits, Mr. Donnan.”

“I ain’t suggestin’ an’thing romantic. I just need some kin. I got no one. Maybe I could be of use to ya. If ya don’t want me as a pa, maybe I can work in the house for ya. I see ya got no servants. I ain’t nowhere to go. I could work here.” Johnny suggested.

“We could use the help.”

“So, you’ll take me on?”

“It’s not my decision to make. The lease is Miss Rittenhouse’s. It’s really her house.”

“I see.”

“Furthermore, how can I be certain that you’ve not come to exact some sort of fuzzy Scots revenge on me?”

“I can’t fault ya for what ya done, Miss Polk. I’d ‘ave done it me-self. Done worse in me lifetime, aye. I could be of use to ya. Revenge is in me heart, but not for you. No, it’s that Duke of Fallbridge. He’s taken me girl and turned her against me.”

“I rather think you’ve done that yourself. You did give the girl away at birth.”

“Only because her ma made me.”

“Oh, dear.” Orpha moaned. “Must we talk about those people?”

“Sorry, Miss.” Johnny answered. “Aye, I’d like to be of ‘elp to someone. Ya got babies, in the house. I’m good with wee ones.”

“Oh, yes, Finlay was the perfect example of that.” Orpha laughed. “Actually, your particular style of child-rearing may be of use to us.”

“For the babies?”

“Why do you keep saying, ‘babies’?”

“I heard two cries.”

“You did.” Orpha nodded. “However, there’s only one baby here. The other child is a girl. I don’t know how old she is. Maybe seven. She’s the one that I’d like you to…influence. I take care of my own child.”

“That would be the one called Marduk?”

“’One’ is such a limiting word.” Orpha muttered. “Perhaps you’d like to see him?”

“I would, Miss.”

“If he likes you, you may stay on here.”

“I thought you said Miss Rittenhouse is the decision-maker of the household.”

“We all defer to Marduk.” Orpha answered.

“To a babe?”

“As you would say, “aye.” Orpha replied. “Do come and see him.”

Johnny followed Orpha to a corner of the parlor where Marduk’s bassinette was hidden by a screen.

“My son, Mr. Donnan.” Orpha pointed with her stump.

Johnny tried not to gasp. He bit his lip and nodded. “A fine lad.”

“Shake his hand, then.” Orpha grinned.

“Which one, Miss.” Johnny gulped.

“The middle one.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-333 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 335.

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