Monday, October 28, 2013

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 1

Chapter 1:
One More For Luck

Servant:  I'll teach you to ring your nasty, noisy bell near the gentleman's house.
Punch:  Two can play at that.
Servant:  Oh, my head!
Punch:  And your tail, too!  How do you like that, and that, and that?  Do you like that music better than the other?  This is my bell!  This my organ!  This my fiddle!  This my drum!  And, this my trumpet!  There!  A whole concert for you!
Servant:  No more!  I'm dead!
Punch:  Quite dead?
Servant:  Yes, quite.
Punch:  Then, here's one more for luck.

Robert laughed as Mr. Punch read aloud.  "Oh, dear Punch, wherever did you find that?"

"Oddly, 'nough," Punch replied to his companion, "it were a gift from Matthew.  Found it in a toy shop, he did.  Said it was amongst a collection of scripts from puppet shows.  He thought it might distract me from the clatter, clatter, clatter of the carriages as we made our way to Yorkshire."

Lennie, Punch's sister who joined the two men in one carriage--along with Punch's terrier, Dog Toby--squealed with laughter at the thought of her fiance, the rather bland, but kind Earl of Cleaversworth purchasing such a book.  "I should think it a good thing that Matthew decided to join us at Fallbridge Hall later.  I think he'd quite shrink upon hearing such an exchange."

"Oh, I dunno."  Punch shrugged.  "Our Matthew's relaxed a bit since his regular visits to No. 65."  He glanced out the window, thinking just how far away London and their beautiful house at No. 65 Belgrave Square had become over the days which had passed.

"Dear Punch?"  Robert asked.

"I'm fine and well, my love.  I think maybe that tryin' to read in the bounce of the carriage 'as hurt me 'ead a bit."  Punch replied.  "Here, but I hope that our Colin's not bothered by the bouncin'."

"Gamilla said our son is enjoying the journey and, even more so, being fussed over by Gerard and Ethel."  Robert replied.

"Rightly so."  Punch nodded, happy at the thought of his son (really his adopted nephew from  another, less-agreeable, sister) enjoying the long carriage ride with his nanny, Gamilla.  Gamilla was a beautiful young woman of African-descent who had recently married Robert's Australian valet, Gerard Gurney.  They occupied a carriage with Ethel, Gamilla's nursery maid--a bright, outspoken and scrappy lass who had started in the employ of Mr. Punch as a scullery maid.

Theirs was a proper caravan with Punch, Robert and Lennie leading the way to Yorkshire and Fallbridge Hall.  Behind them was the carriage containing Gamilla, Gerard, Ethel and, of course, Colin.  Next followed the carriage which was half-filled with trunks and half-filled with Violet, Lennie's loyal, blonde Lady's Maid; and Charles Iantosca, who served as Punch's valet.  

Two more carriages trailed the first three.  The next held Mrs. Pepper--their beloved cook, her son, George Pepper, who served as a general footman, and Maudie, the wide-eyed kitchen maid.  A final burden of trunks, and cases was the end of their horse-drawn train.

"We're near the Hall now,"  Punch sighed.  "In just a moment, you'll be able to see the towers over the trees ahead, you will."

Robert studied Punch's face.  He knew that his companion was worried, much more so than Punch let on.  After all, Punch hadn't returned to Fallbridge Hall in nearly two years--ever since he was summoned to fetch his lost sister, Barbara.  Punch didn't return to England with Barbara--she preferred to stay behind and live the life of a prostitute, a sad end for the former Lady Fallbridge.  No, Punch didn't return to England with Barbara.  He did return with her son, whom he named Colin and adopted.  He also returned with a loyal lover--Dr. Robert Halifax, who had newly been created by Queen Victoria as Baron Colinshire.  And, most complicated of all, he returned as Mr. Punch.

In 1853, not much was known about mental illness.  In fact, Robert had closed his practice to study such "afflictions."  Mr. Punch hadn't been born as such.  He was born, Julian Molliner.  Upon the (rather sordid) death of his mother, Julian became the Duke of Fallbridge, and lived two lives, in essence.  In one life, with those he was not familiar, he acted and spoke in the manner in which the Duke of Fallbridge should act.  After all, within the peerage of England in the mid-Nineteenth Century, the Duke of Fallbridge was the next closest rank to a Royal Duke.

However, with those he knew well:  Robert, of course, Lennie, Matthew, and the servants from their Belgravia townhouse, Punch was free to act as he wished--as Mr. Punch.  That person (as Punch believed his body was occupied by more than one person, led by Mr. Punch himself) was the strongest of the lot.  He had taken his name from the puppet-show Punchinello and had grown within young Julian as a means of coping with a far-too-difficult life.

By being Mr. Punch, he had beaten the devil many times over, he had found a mate, been a devoted father, assisted Robert in adopting another child (a troubled girl called Fern), found a lost half-sister in Lennie, and, even made life-long friends in the form of the servants.  

Julian would never have been able to do that.  Julian, the "true" Duke of Fallbridge, was timid, frightened, impotent.  But, Punch, using Julian's body from within, was able to create a life for himself and his family.  Furthermore, he was able to use his vast wealth to help others as well as enjoy a deep and abiding friendship with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who adored Punch--as he was, without pretense--as a delightful friend as well as a talented jeweler.

It was Julian who had left Fallbridge Hall--the revered family seat--but, it was Punch who was returning.  And, though he'd brought most of the servants from his opulent Belgravia townhouse--those who were used to him as he was--Fallbridge Hall was filled with dozens of other servants who would not be as accepting.  He loathed having to pretend.  He hated each pretentious moment of having to mimic "Julian," but he knew that--at least for awhile, to avoid scandal--he'd have to.

It hadn't been so bad when he had taken Colin, Robert and the lot to Grange Molliner, the family's Scottish estate.  The Scots weren't as judgmental as the small minds he'd face in Yorkshire.  Besides, Punch thought, had it not been for the trip to Aberdeenshire, he'd never have found Lennie.  And, it was for Lennie that he made the trip to Fallbridge Hall.

Lennie--Punch adored her.  She was the illegitimate child of the late Duchess of Fallbridge and Johnny Donnan, a groundskeeper at Grange Molliner.  As an infant, she'd been passed off to relatives and raised as Ellen Barrett--essentially a nurse to ailing kin.  

Punch knew how Lennie had suffered throughout her life, and, as one who had also suffered, he wanted her to know fine things--all of the remarkable things which his wealth and title could afford her.  He wished for Lennie to know from whence she came, even if most of it wasn't as beautiful as the massive stone walls of Fallbridge Hall would imply.  Furthermore, Lennie's fiance was eager to marry whereas Lennie was enjoying her first taste of freedom.  The trip to Yorkshire served as a stalling tactic.

Yes, he was willing to give all of that to Lennie, his beloved sister who had been so kind to her new nephew, who had offered unfailing love and support to Punch's union with Robert (a phenomenon which, despite the support of the Queen herself, was one which was not the stuff of polite society), and who deserved to have as much joy as possible.  

Even if it meant returning to the very place where young Julian had endured the torture which had necessitated the invention of Mr. Punch within their shared body in the first place.

"There they are,"  Lennie said brightly, pointing to the carriage window.  "The towers!  Just as you said, brother dear."

Punch forced a smile and nodded, catching sight of Robert's affection glance of sympathy.

"It won't be long now."  Lennie continued.  "Oh, I know I shouldn't be so excited, but..."

"No, no."  Punch shook his head.  "You should be.  I want you to be."

"I imagine Jackson will have the entire staff assembled to great their Duke."  Robert commented.

"I s'pose."  Punch nodded.  "I'd best start speaking properly now just so I don't slip up."

"Do you really think you need to?"  Lennie asked.

"Yes, my dear."  Punch replied.  "For awhile anyway.  Remember, they've not seen me since Mother's death.  It'll be shocking enough to answer to a new master.  Imagine if I came bounding out of the carriage with a 'Hullo!  Hullo!  Rooty-toot-toot!'"

Lennie smiled.  "I just hate that..."

Punch waved his hand.  "I do it without complaint."

"You're wonderful."  Lennie sighed.

"Look, Lennie--there's the full view of the Hall."  Punch pointed.

"It's magnificent."  Lennie shook her head.  "I can't fathom it."

"You will soon enough."  Punch answered, recalling his/Julian's youth within the sprawling estate.

"I trust Jackson is scrambling to get all of the servants together just about now.  I'm sure he had a look-out."  Robert nodded.

"He'd best have them out to greet us or I will bound into the great Hall as me-self and start an orchestra like the one I just read about.  And, don't you think I'll give Jackson one extra for luck."  Punch laughed.

Come back tomorrow for A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 2.  Just as I had done with the other two novels, there will be a Chapter Archive for this one.  I'll be finalizing the archive for Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square this week.

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