Friday, June 21, 2013
Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 343
"I say, Your Grace." Matthew smiled as he entered the drawing room of No. 65. "I hope I've not made a nuisance of myself. Seems I take my meals here more than I do in my own home these days."
"Not at all," Punch shook his head. "After these last weeks, it would seem odd, it would, for you to not be at table with us for dinner."
Mr. Punch, over the last two weeks, had gradually let Matthew hear his natural speaking voice and mannerisms. Eventually, Lennie, Robert and Punch had taken Matthew aside, after a satisfying and comforting dinner especially prepared by Mrs. Pepper for the Earl's particular enjoyment, and explained that Punch was one body comprised of the minds of several different men. They feared that Matthew would be nonplussed by the news, but, surprisingly, the gentleman simply nodded and said, "how terribly noisy it must be for you." He then asked for a brandy and picked up the conversation as if he'd simply just been told that Punch had a tendency to developing canker sores.
"When I walked up just now," Matthew continued, taking a chair across from Punch, I thought I caught a whiff of a roast of beef coming from your downstairs.
"You got a fine nose on ya," Punch grinned. "Mrs. Pepper's made a roast for ya, knowin' as she does how you love it so."
"With those fine swiss potatoes?"
"That's right." Punch nodded. "And, the carrots with the sugar glaze."
"Fine, fine." Matthew swallowed.
"Pudding will be a surprise, however." Punch winked.
"Oh?" Matthew pressed his hands together. "Do tell."
"No." Punch shook his head. "It's a surprise, like I said."
"Bother. Now, I can't wait."
"You'll do." Punch laughed.
"Will there be a savory as well?"
"Isn't there always?" Punch laughed.
"Listen to me," Matthew shook his head, "I wouldn't want you to think that I come here only for Mrs. Pepper's cooking."
"I'd never think that. No, no. Happy, I am, that you come and that we can talk 'bout food together. Robert, I fear, gets weary of my food chatter after a spell."
"Where is Lord Colinshire?"
"He'll be down in a tick. Got a late start in dressing today. He 'ad a patient...rather unexpectedly."
"Nothing too serious, I hope."
"I shouldn't ask." Matthew said apologetically.
"I don't mind. I'm sure Robert wouldn't either. Only it's nothin' too pleasant. Involved that poor child you saw when you walked with Lennie the first time. The one called Marduk, and them ladies what's so cruel to us."
"I see." Matthew sighed.
"Let's speak of happier things." Punch said brightly. "Lennie will be down shortly as well. She's been 'elpin' our Gamilla this evenin' with somethings that only ladies know 'bout. Ya know, our Gamilla is to be married to our Gerard in two days."
"I know." Matthew smiled. "Her Ladyship has kindly invited me to attend."
"To be sure. I've never attended the wedding of servants before. Until meeting you, I've never thought of servants as being part of the...family. However, I'm seeing that they are. Furthermore, Her Ladyship is so delighted by the marriage that to witness her joy at the nuptials is enough enticement for me."
"And there's to be cake."
"That, too, is enticing." Matthew chuckled. "However, again, I don't visit only for the food."
"I very much like coming here, Your Grace." Matthew continued. "I've grown terribly fond of you and Lord Colinshire."
"And we of you, to be sure." Punch nodded. "Only, given our fondness, I do wish you'd call us Punch and Robert as we asked."
"It's difficult for me to break from protocol, Punch." Matthew said. "My upbringing was most strict."
"As was mine." Punch sighed. "Or...well...not mine as much as Julian's."
"I understand." Matthew replied. "Or, I'm beginning to."
"You've done well, you have." Punch responded reassuringly.
"Yes, yes, I do enjoy the company of you and Lor...Robert." Matthew said. He paused.
"And, of Lennie?"
"Well, yes," Matthew blushed.
"I believe she enjoys yours as well."
"I suppose since we have this moment to ourselves, I should make my intentions known, Your Grace...Punch."
"Well, yes," Matthew continued to blush. "I am quite taken with Lady Fallbridge...by her wit and intellect and keen spirit and bravery and her gentleness...and her beauty."
"I knew," Matthew went on, "that first moment that I saw her that she was not just a handsome woman, but one who would be a very fine wife and an excellent companion. I...well..."
"Go on, Matthew." Punch leaned forward.
"I do believe that I would like to ask for her hand in marriage."
Punch waited for Matthew to continue, and seeing that he wasn't going to do so, he smiled. "Here, did ya think I'd be surprised by this?"
"No." Matthew confessed. "Still, you are the head of the family. And, I cannot ask for her hand without your permission first."
"You've my permission and that of Robert's, I'm sure." Punch said. "Head of the family or not, I should tell ya, it isn't up to me, it's not. Robert and me, we like ya and like havin' you 'round. Only, it's Lennie what's got the final say."
"Certainly." Matthew nodded rapidly.
"When were ya thinkin' o' askin' 'er?"
"Well..." Matthew began. He stopped as he heard the doors to the room open.
"Matthew," Lennie smiled as she swept into the room. "Forgive my tardiness."
Punch and the earl stood as Lennie entered. She studied their faces.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything." Lennie raised any eyebrow.
"Just the chatter of gentlemen." Punch answered.
"I see." Lennie said. "Well, then...may I be included."
"That ain't up to me." Punch laughed. "What say you, Matthew?"
Did you miss Chapters 1-342 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 344.