Friday, July 12, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 355

Chapter 355
The Future Mrs. Gerard Gurney

The gilded turquoise and coral plaster halls of No. 65 Belgrave Square echoed with the sounds of joy on the evening before the marriage of Gamilla and Gerard was to take place.  The women had gathered in the Morning Room and the men, just above them, in the library, stacked like two books filled with pages of glad anticipation.  Between them, the grand hall vibrated with their voices, the scents of cigars and perfume mingling in the glass dome.

When Gamilla first entered the Morning Room, she began to cry happy tears upon seeing the preparations that the female staff, following Lennie's carefully planned designs, had made.  The sideboard was laden with the canapes, cakes sweets which Maudie had made for the occasion while the center table groaned under the weight of gifts, mostly from Lennie, for the bride's trousseau.  Vases on each table, each pedestal, the desk, and the mantelpiece were filled with brightly-hued flowers, set against the vivid green of ferns and sparked with the white of baby's breath.  

"This is for me?"  Gamilla shook her head, tears rolling down her face.

"Of course,"  Lennie smiled.  "You're the bride."

"I...I...never had such..."  Gamilla shook her head again.  "I never had such friends.  Not since my sister..."  She took a deep breath.  "You did this for me?  It's all so beautiful?  You're all so beautiful.  You all jus' look lovely.  Look at ya!"

They did, indeed look beautiful.  

Lennie, of course, was dressed most fashionably, not surprisingly.  She wore a new gown of rose silk trimmed with lace.  Violet had curled Lennie's hair and piled it upon her head in a cascade of ringlets held in place by a gold comb set with pink sapphires--a recent gift from her brother who had designed the comb to match what he called the "healthy glow" of Lennie's cheeks.  Around her slender throat hung a necklace, also given her by the Duke, which shined brightly in the light of the oil lamps and candles, sparkling the fire of perfect diamonds and pink spinel.  

While Lady Fallbridge naturally wore the most expensive attire of the lot, the others looked equally lovely in their Sunday best.  Mrs. Pepper had long labored over her simple, but elegant gown, spending the weeks since Gamilla's engagement creating the garment from fabrics she'd been saving for years.  Sturdily made using a pattern from 1851, the dress obviously turned out as Mrs. Pepper had planned since she wore the dove gray dress with tremendous pride.  At her neck, she had placed her most prized possession, the silver brooch which her late husband had given her on their wedding day.  It was set with a glittering garnet which, like Lennie's diamonds, danced in the dim light of the room.

Violet, Maudie and Ethel did not have the time and resources to make a dress for the party and following wedding day as Mrs. Pepper had.  However, each looked pretty in their church clothes.  Violet, so rarely seen without her cap, had styled her blonde hair (which had finally grown to a more manageable length since being so unceremoniously cut in Scotland) in such a way that it looked like a golden halo around her pale face, a face which shone luminously against her dark sapphire-blue cotton dress.  

The other two girls, in their gingham had the favor of youth on their side.  Out of their aprons and uniforms, and scrubbed, they both looked like the young ladies that they were.  Their smiles, and dreams of their own future weddings served as their jewels and were equally as brilliant.

"Well, don't just stand there, Gamilla!"  Ethel chirped.  "Come and sit!  Her ladyship has planed all sorts of games and we got presents for ya and Maudie's spent the day in the kitchen makin' all these delicious things."

"And a fine job she's done."  Mrs. Pepper nodded proudly.

"I...I jus' don't know what to say."  Gamilla replied.

Lennie, who'd led Gamilla to the Morning Room, took Gamilla by the hand and gently pulled her toward a settee.  

"You shouldn't have done all this for me."  Gamilla continued.  She shook her head.  "I ain't nothin' special.  I...I ain't."

"You're wonderfully special!"  Lennie objected.  "You're so loved by everyone here.  This is, if you prefer, more for us than it is you.  We have so few opportunities to really show one another how we feel.  Tonight is a celebration of that and of the many happy years you'll spend being Mrs. Gerard Gurney."

Gamilla wiped her eyes.  "Mrs. Gerard Gurney."  

"A fine name."  Mrs. Pepper grinned.

"Sure is.  Gamilla Gurney."  Maudie added.  "Cor!  You both got the same monogram.  Ain't that convenient!"

Ethel laughed loudly.  "They can use the same handkerchiefs!"

Everyone joined in the laughter, but, soon, Gamilla began to cry again.

"Oh, there, dearie."  Mrs. Pepper sat next to Gamilla.  "I remember the night before my weddin' and cried just as you do.  Happy tears, nervous tears, grateful tears, frightened tears.  All brides do."

"But, I ain't all brides, Mrs. Pepper."  Gamilla answered softly.

"No, you're not."  Lennie nodded.  "You're our Gamilla.  A grand, lovely, gentle woman."

"Who, not to long ago,"  Gamilla sniffed, "belonged to someone like property.  I was as much a possession as a candlestick or a bed warmer.  I wasn't a person, not at all."

Maudie's eyes widened.  "Is that so?"

"What do ya think, silly?  An African woman what was workin' in America on one o' them big farms?"  Ethel whispered.  "She was a slave."

"Now, you are a free woman."  Lennie said quickly.

"I never even had a surname."  Gamilla continued.

"And, now, you shall."  Lennie answered gently.

"And a husband what loves ya."  Mrs. Pepper added.

"A handsome one, too."  Violet winked.

"He is that handsome, Gerard is.  Isn't he?"  Maudie smiled.

"He is."  Gamilla nodded.  "And more so, he's a kind man.  Rose above a horrible bad life and made himself into a good, solid fella."  She smiled again.

"There's your smile."  Lennie sighed contentedly.  "Let's have no more tears for now.  There's no good in dwelling upon where we've been.  Believe me, Gamilla, I must remind myself of that each day."

"Ain't that true."  Gamilla grinned.  "We gotta look ahead."

"Let me put together a nice plate for ya!"  Maudie suggested.

"No, she should open her presents first."  Ethel shook her head.

"There's time enough for all we've planned."  Lennie giggled.

"That's right, Your Ladyship, we all got nothin' but time."  Mrs. Pepper nodded.

"I'm just itchin' for 'er to see what Maudie and I made for her."  Ethel said excitedly.  "And, all them lovely things Miss Lennie...I mean, Her Ladyship, bought..."

"Oh, Ethel, you are wonderful."  Lennie smiled.  "We shall do all of that.  But, first, I'd like to just say something to all of you."

Everyone looked expectantly at Lennie.

"I know I said that dwelling on the past is never helpful, and, so I shan't except to say that until I came here, I never knew such happiness.  While I never knew the sort of life our Gamilla has had to endure, I know a variation of it.  Then, by chance, really, I met my brother, and, through His Grace, all of you who have shown me more kindness than all of the people I've known in the past combined.  No matter where we reside in this house, we're all of us, friends, and it's something for which I've longed all my life--this friendship.  Gamilla was one of the first to welcome me.  Gamilla, I'm so proud to know you.  I've learned so much from you and I know I've much more to learn.  I speak for his Grace and His Lordship when I say that it's with considerable pride and joy that tomorrow we will welcome Mr. and Mrs. Gerard Gurney into these halls, and, with much gladness will we watch your own family grow and thrive alongside the family we already have here."

"Thank you."  Gamilla swallowed emotionally.

"Here's to Gamilla!"  Violet cheered. 

"To Gamilla!"  The others chimed in.

"Here, now can we play that game where we guess how many babies Gamilla's gonna 'ave?"  Ethel asked eagerly.

The group laughed.

"I thought you wanted to open the presents first."  Lennie grinned.

"Oh, yeah, that!"  Ethel said quickly.

"Gamilla?  What do you prefer?"  Lennie asked.

"I ain't ready to be thinkin' 'bout babies."  Gamilla smiled.

"Gifts, it is, then."  Lennie nodded.

"This is all the best gift of all."  Gamilla replied.

"We should say that of you."  Lennie answered.

Mrs. Pepper wiped her eyes.  "Now, I'm cryin!  Oh, my heavens, but ain't weddin's grand?"

Did you miss Chapters 1-354 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 356.

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