Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 379

Chapter 379
The Toast

After Gamilla and Gerard  had cut the gorgeous tiered cake which Mrs. Pepper and Maudie had created for the occasion and ample servings had been passed about by the hired waiters, Mr. Punch, as instructed by Robert, gently tapped his glass to attract the attention of the small party.

While Punch was comfortable with Matthew, he still took care in his manner of speaking, toning down the "rough" elements to which he was prone--despite the fact that everyone else in attendance had seen him at his Punchiest.  

Everyone turned to face the central table where the bride and groom sat with Lennie (who held Colin), Matthew, Robert and Punch.

Robert nodded and Punch rose.

His voice quaked with joy as he spoke, "As you all know, we have had a bit of a long walk to get to this day, each of us...each of us in his own way and all of us together.  I have to say that I could not be happier nor prouder to stand before you and say that we're celebrating the love of Mr. and Mrs. Gerard Gurney this day."

The room trembled with applause and whistling.  Even Dog Toby, who sat under the center table, barked with enthusiasm.

"Lord Colinshire and me...I...we're so glad.  As is Lady Fallbridge.  We all wish you the happiest of times, the greatest of success, and much affection, and we're all so happy that we'll have the pleasure of having the two of you have your family as part of our family--our large, wonderful family.  I think I speak for my sister and my...Lord Colinshire when I say that we look forward, one day, to having little Gurneys running about with Colin, and, when our Fern..." He pointed to Fern who sat, unusually content, by the fire, casually eating her cake, "comes home from school on holidays, she will be a fine cousin to all of 'em."

Again, everyone cheered as Fern blushed.

"As you know," Punch continued, "soon, there will be another wedding to celebrate in this household--the marriage of Lady Fallbridge to the Earl of Cleaversworth."

Matthew and Lennie both looked away.

"As befitting a couple of their standing,"  Punch smiled, hoping that what he would say next would somehow smooth the tension between his sister and future brother-in-law, "they will enjoy a long engagement, allowing Lord Colinshire and properly plan their wedding and so that they can revel in the magic that can only be shared by two people promised to one another."

Matthew smiled, finally.  And, Lennie looked markedly relieved by it.

"As part of that, Lord Colinshire and I 'ave an announcement we'd like to make."  Punch said.  He inhaled and looked to Robert.  "Chum, would ya like to tell 'em?"

"No, I think you're doing splendidly."  Robert grinned.

"Oh."  Punch muttered.  "Very well."  He took another deep breath.  "Well, ya see, Lord Colinshire and I've spent much of the night talkin' and, then, we talked with Lady Fallbridge, and, then,  to Speaight and, then, we decided to share our plans with all of you since what I'm 'bout to say will make a difference to all of you."

The happy group began to murmur in anticipation.

"To begin, I will say that Lord Colinshire 'as decided to temporarily retire from practicing medicine 'cept should Their Majesties need 'im or someone in the family.  I can't imagine Her Majesty's got another baby in 'er, God 'elp 'er.  Nine is enough, I'd say."  Punch blushed.  "But, that's neither here nor there.  Just I want you to know that you're all sharin' a physician with the Queen and Prince Albert."

Everyone laughed.

"But, that don't mean His Lordship'll be idle.  Oh, no.  See, he's gonna write a book.  A book what'll help folk who are different--like me and like Her Ladyship's cousin Roger whom you all know.  And, in order to do that, we thought His Lordship might like to leave the city for a bit.  Not alone, of course.  So...also, since her Ladyship ain't never been to home in Yorkshire, Fallbridge Hall..."  Punch's hands trembled at the thought, "we decided that a journey there would be welcome.  This...our home on Belgrave Square...will always be just that--our home.  It's the place we will always return.  It's the place where I want our son to grow.  This is home, but, it's also important to remember the heritage of the family, to pass along the traditions which 'ave been about for centuries."

The staff looked quickly from face to face nervously.

"Now, I see your expressions, and believe me, I know what you're thinkin'.  We're closin' up this house, and, all but Mr. Speaight will be coming with us--after Gerard and Gamilla return from their weddin' trip."

Everyone gasped with relief and surprise.

"You mean, we're all goin'?"  Ethel chirped.

"Yes, Ethel.  Just as when we went to Grange Molliner in Scotland"  Punch smiled.  "We'd like to take Speaight, too, only we need someone to stay behind and look after this house while we're away and he's volunteered to do that.  Charles, of course, and Gerard as valets to me and his Lordship, are necessary.  We need you, Ethel, as nursery maid to Gamilla.  Violet will take on the role full-time of Lady's Maid to Lady Fallbridge, and, when we return, another house maid and parlor maid will be employed.  The cook at Fallbridge Hall, as I understand it, is with child, and, so, while we're there, we shall give her a rest to spend time with her husband and, in that case, we'll need Mrs. Pepper and Maudie.  Georgie will be promted to footman, a position he'll retain after we return."

"Oh, my boy!  I'm so proud,"  Mrs. Pepper cheered.

"Aw, Mum." George blushed as he was patted on the back by those around him.

"And, so, when our new married couple returns, off we'll go."  Punch smiled despite his own fears about returning to Fallbridge Hall--and the wicked memories therein.

"His Lordship and I would also like to take this moment to extend one more invitation.  We do hope that the Earl of Cleaversworth will join us to ensure that he and Lady Fallbridge 'ave ample time together."

"I say..."  Matthew looked up, smiling slightly.  He looked to Lennie who nodded.

"I don't mean to put you on the spot,"  Punch said.

"Not at all, old man.  I'd love to come along.  I've family in Yorkshire and could pay them a call as well."

"Then, it's settled.  Provided the 'appy couple has no objections.  After all, we just built that new suite for ya, and it might be some time before you use it again.  I assure ya that the nurseries at Fallbridge Hall..."  He paused, "As I recall, offer even more space than we got here for a husband and wife."

"Wherever everyone else is,"  Gamilla grinned, "is home for us.  Even if we had to sleep in a cupboard!"

"I agree with Mrs. Gurney."  Gerard said proudly.

"Fine!"  Punch said finally.  "And, so it shall be.  Except no one sleeps in a cupboard.  While our newlyweds are off, we'll prepare for our trip, and upon their return, it's off to Yorkshire."

Everyone cheered.

"Now, if you'll raise your glasses,"  Punch said.  "Here, Chum, I thin I talked 'nough.  You go and say the toast."

"With pleasure,"  Robert nodded, rising.

Everyone held aloft their champagne--except Gerard who held a glass of water, and, Fern who had some of Mrs. Pepper's special apple cider.

Robert began, "Here's to a long, happy, loving life for our Gerard and Gamilla.  For all of the joy which you've brought to us, may the same be returned to you one hundred fold.  To Gerard and Gamilla!"

"To Gerard and Gamilla!"  Everyone took a sip.

"Everyone, His Grace has arranged for the photographer to create a family portrait of all of us together, so, if you'll all gather in front of the mantel, we shall begin..."

Did you miss Chapters 1-378 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 380.  

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