Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 350
"I have been ringing for you for twenty minutes!" Orpha snapped as Johnny Donnan hurried into the parlor of Hamish House. "Where have you been?"
"Miss Rittenhouse sent me on an errand."
"It's taken you this long to walk up the street to deliver a parcel to the Duke's staff?"
"My apologies for being so slow, Miss Polk." Johnny replied.
"What's happened to you?" Orpha growled. "You weren't so broken down and wretched in Scotland."
"Miss Polk," Johnny narrowed his eyes, "When a man sees his own child drowned, when he loses the position he's held all his life, when he's fooled into thinking his daughter has returned to him only to find it was all a lie...aye, these things tend to ruin a man."
Orpha smirked. "Well said. I suppose, then, you're suggesting that I shouldn't complain about you being a broken wretch when it was I who made you so?"
"What might I do for you, Miss Polk?" Johnny ignored her.
"Marduk wants changing."
"Well, I can't do it with one hand. Now, can I?"
"Who usually does this, Miss?" Johnny asked.
"Ulrika, but...Miss Rittenhouse and Mr. Iantosca have already retired for the evening."
"I may not be the best person for this task." Johnny shook his head.
"You had a son. Didn't you ever look after Finlay when he was a baby?"
"Of course you didn't." Orpha barked. "Just help the poor child, Johnny."
"As you wish." Johnny replied. He lifted Marduk from the bassinet and removed the twins' soiled cloth nappy.
"The child is ill, Miss." Johnny shook his head. "Look..."
"I don't need to look." Orpha snapped. "I know that he's ill. Clean him and redress him."
"What?" Orpha grumbled. "Why are you staring at him?"
"Well, Miss, his lower half is really quite like it should be. I often wondered." Johnny answered.
"What did you expect?" Orpha snarled.
"I didn't quite know what to expect from a babe with two heads and three arms, Miss."
Orpha rolled her eyes.
"Miss, perhaps it's not my place, but..."
"It's not." Orpha interrupted him. "I assure you."
"Pardon me sayin' so, Miss, but for awhile, I did think you were me own daughter. Aye, and even though it ended badly, I...still, from time to time, I...tend to think of you as me own still. I'm not tryin' to overstep. Still, I must confess, master Marduk is the closest I'll have to a grandchild."
"How pathetic." Orpha scoffed.
"I'm sorry to have bothered you, Miss." Johnny sighed. He finished with Marduk and lowered the child into his bassinet.
"If there's nothing else, then?"
"No." Orpha replied.
"Good night, then, Miss." Johnny walked off.
"Wait!" Orpha shouted.
"Yes, Miss?" Johnny replied.
"I'm going to need your help with something tomorrow. Miss Rittenhouse will explain the details to you, but, in short, we plan to abduct the African woman from the Duke's residence."
"Yes, that's her name. Insufferably sweet. I hated every moment I had to spend with her, listening to her simpering goodness."
"What do you intend to do with her?"
"Never you mind."
"She's to be married the day after tomorrow, Miss." Johnny said quickly, forgetting himself for a moment.
"I know." Orpha belched. "Go to bed, Johnny, you disappoint me. Perhaps some rest will allow your contemptible side to regain its strength."
"Yes, Miss." Johnny nodded, wondering how he could sneak out of the house without being noticed.
Tomorrow, we'll be taking the day off for the Fourth of July. Come back on Friday for Chapter 351 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.