Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 387

Chapter 387
Growing Fern

The household, though it functioned well enough, felt the absence of Gerard and Gamilla during the weeks that the newlyweds enjoyed the wedding trip which Punch and Robert had given them.

The new scullery maid whom Speaight had found was efficient and quiet and though she was pleasant and good-natured, Maudie and Mrs. Pepper couldn't help compare her to Ethel.  When Ethel brought the baby downstairs to visit the staff, she urged her friends to make the new girl, Ida, feel as though she was an important part of the family.

Ida wasn't the only new member of the staff at No. 65, two other new girls had joined the household--a new housemaid, Hulda, and a new parlor maid, Dolly.  Dolly was a bright-eyed lass, always ready with an innocent joke or what she considered a humorous observation.  Hulda was more serious and spent her rare moments of relaxation engaged in prayer and reading.

Mr. Punch found both new maids to be pleasant enough though he found Hulda to be a bit peculiar.  Nonetheless, when he noticed that Fern took an immediate liking to Hulda, he didn't discourage the girls from their whispered chats.  

What distressed Punch about the newcomers was the fact that their presence meant he had to be more guarded in his speech and behavior than he had previously.  He'd long before learned that it was best to reveal his Punchinello-side to new staff members slowly, especially when he couldn't be sure of they were the gossipy sort.

"It'll be good practice for when we're at Fallbridge Hall,"  Punch smiled to Robert, trying to conceal his worry.

Nonetheless, Robert knew his companion was concerned about the upcoming trip to Yorkshire, about having to hide his true self, and about having to confront an onslaught of painful memories.

For his part, Robert tried to distract Punch from dwelling on the more unpleasant aspects of the trip and encouraged his partner to think of all of the wonderful things he'd be able to show Lennie.

Lennie, for her part, was thrilled to prepare for the trip.  She and Violet spent hours shopping for new fabrics and shoes which would be suited for their time in the country.  Because of this Matthew found himself spending a lot of time waiting for his fiancee, and much time in the company of Robert and Punch, both of whom concluded that while marginally dull, the earl was a decent, kind man.

"We just have to liven him up a bit, we do, Chum."  Punch had confided to Robert privately.  "Show 'im that he's free to show some spirit."

With only a few days before the return of Gamilla and Gerard, Punch and Robert were also preparing for Fern's departure for school.  Though he was more comfortable with the girl than he had been, Robert never did warm up to her, and Punch tried his best despite finding the child a trifle spooky.

It had been Lennie's idea to have Mrs. Pepper prepare a special dinner to celebrate Fern's departure in the hopes that it would make the girl feel special as well as give her the sense that going to school was an exciting event worthy of celebration.

As Matthew, Lennie, Punch and Robert gathered in the drawing room prior to that special dinner, Fern made her entrance.  At that moment, the effects of the past months of trauma became very apparent in the child.

Did you miss Chapters 1-386 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 388.

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