Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 345

Chapter 345
Even if it is from Garrard's

Punch and Robert leaned forward, anticipating Lennie's answer to the proposal of the Earl of Cleaversworth.

"Matthew."  Lennie inhaled.  

"Yes, Your Ladyship."  Matthew nodded.

"I cannot marry you."

Matthew's face fell and his shoulder slumped.  He lowered the box containing the fine filigree ring set with the gleaming canary diamond.

A thick silence fell over the drawing room.

Punch and Robert looked to one another, wordlessly asking what to do next.

"I realize I'm older,"  Matthew said softly.  "However, I would treat you with such gentleness and care.  You'd never forget for a moment how much of a treasure you are."

"Matthew...that's just why I cannot marry you.  I'm no treasure."

"Your modesty only makes you more so."  Matthew replied.

"It's not modesty."  Lennie answered.  "It's...it's reality.  I'm nothing special.  Her Majesty may have created me Lady Fallbridge, and my brother has kindly given me his surname, but it doesn't change the circumstances of my birth nor does it erase my life prior to this dream in which I live here with Punch and Robert and Colin.  I'm no aristocrat.   I'm...I'm the illegitimate daughter of the Duchess of Fallbridge and a groundskeeper."

"I know all of that."  Matthew said quickly.  "It doesn't matter to me.  You told me of your past life weeks ago."

"Matthew, dear Matthew, I was ostensibly a nursemaid to my aunt and uncle who took me in.  Certainly, I believed they were my parents, but, my role in that household was that of a servant.  I cared for Roger, I looked after Mrs. Barrett when she became ill and I nursed Mr. Barrett until he died.  Look at my hands.  These are not the hands of a lady.  Such a ring should not be placed on these hands.  Her Majesty may grant me all the titles she wishes.  My wonderful brother may pretend as much as he likes that I am the sister with which he has always lived, but none of it alters the fact of what I really am.  Had it not been for my aunt and uncle, I'd have been in a workhouse.  Had it not been for my brother now, I'd be in debtors' prison.  And, even his kindness, I denied at first.  I gave up my own name to a madwoman who caused pain and torment for the very people who have shown me the most kindness."

"You were frightened and confused."  Robert interjected.  "It's understandable.  Lennie, look at your life now.  This is who you are.  You cannot judge yourself by the past.  Look at me.  My brother and I lived on the streets.  I know exactly what you're feeling.  I often feel it myself.  I often feel that I don't deserve to live here with Punch, to be his companion.  When Her Majesty created me a baron, I, at first, felt that I wasn't worthy.  But, dear Lennie, I realized, with Punch's help, that I rose above the tragedy of my past.  I fought for my education, for my practice as a physician.  I deserve a good life with someone who treasures me.  I've earned it, and so have you.  Don't deny yourself happiness."

"Listen to Robert, Lennie."  Punch nodded.

"My dear,"  Matthew began.  "I care about your past inasmuch as I care about all aspects of you.  I wish, so deeply, I could have spared you any pain you had.  I cannot shift time and space to erase that part of your life, but I can see to it that your coming years and the rest of your life are spent comfortably and in affection."

"And, if we were to marry, how would the vicar address us?  Matthew, Earl of Cleaversworth and Ellen Barrett?"

"No."  Matthew began.

"Lennie,"  Punch spoke up.  "Her Majesty has seen to it that your legal name is registered as Ellen Molliner, Lady Fallbridge."

"I do not care what you are called," Matthew interjected.  "Whether you're Ellen or Lennie or Lady Fallbridge or...or...anything else.  My dear, I want you to be Lady Cleaversworth.  I want you to be my wife, my companion in life, my love."

"You deserve a noble woman."

"I do."  Matthew nodded.  "And, I've found one in you."

Lennie looked to Punch who smiled his agreement.  Next, she looked to Robert who nodded.

"Besides,"  Punch winked.  "You'd just be up the street.  You could come to tea every day and see Colin and me and Robert and Dog Toby and all the others."

Lennie pressed her hands together.

Again, Matthew presented the ring to Lennie.

She was silent.

"Lennie,"  Matthew said seriously.  "I do love you so.  Do you love me?"

"Yes, I do."   Lennie answered tearfully.

"Then, I say, the proper thing to do is to marry me."  Matthew declared.

"Ask her again,"  Punch whispered.  "You know...proper-like."

"Lady Fallbridge,"  Matthew cleared his throat.  "Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"

Lennie nodded.

"You must say it."  Robert chided.

"I will, Matthew.  I will be your wife."  Lennie nodded again.

"Thank you,"  Matthew replied breathlessly, removing the ring from the box and slipping it onto Lennie's left ring finger.

"That's the way to do it."  Punch whooped.  "Only, let me make the wedding bands.  Eh?"

"Of course!"  Matthew chirped.  He stood and took Lennie's hands, raising her from the chair.

"This calls for a toast, I think."  Robert grinned, hurrying to the bell-push to ring for Speaight.  "Furthermore, the servants will be thrilled to learn of this.  As thrilled as your brother and I are."

"Oh...perhaps we should keep this to ourselves.  With Gamilla's wedding the day after tomorrow, I'd hate to steal her moment of being the center of attention."  Lennie shook her head.  

"This is why I love you."  Matthew smiled.

"Don't you worry,"  Punch responded.  "I know Gamilla and I know she'll be delighted by the news.  Everyone will."

"If you think so."  Gamilla replied.

"I do."  Punch answered as he walked toward Matthew.  Offering his hand to his future brother-in-law, he said simply.  "Congratulations, new chum.  You couldn't have a finer bride."  Grinning, he added, "Pity it means you're now stuck with me and Robert, too."

"I've always wanted brothers who would tease me and with whom I could joke and be light of heart.  The two of you have filled that empty place in my life."

"And, we will for many years to come."  Robert agreed.

Lennie sat again, quickly.  She fanned herself with her hand.

"What is it, Lennie?"  Robert asked.

"Merciful heavens, I'm to be married!"  Lennie exclaimed.  "I never thought it would happen.  And, more so, I never thought I'd be so fortunate as to be married to a man as fine as Matthew.  I've just realized that this is...this is..."

"Actually happening?"  Matthew finished her thought.  "Well, I say, it really is."

"And, we're most glad, we are."  Punch added.

"The ring, Matthew, it's gorgeous."

"I'm glad you like it."  Matthew said sheepishly.  "I spent many hours looking for just the right one."

"You did very well."  Punch winked.  "Even if it is from Garrard's."  

Did you miss Chapters 1-344 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 346.

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