Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 4

Chapter 4:
Past the Point of No Return

"There, M'Lady."  Violet smiled as she put the final touches on Lennie's coiffure.  "You look just like a picture in one o' the Queen's palaces."

"Thank you, Violet."  Lennie sighed contentedly, "I am feeling so much better now that I've had a nice bath and you've done my hair."

"And, don't you look lovely in your new rose-colored gown what His Grace bought special for ya for the trip 'ere.  Musta planned it just so it'd match these rooms."  Violet nodded.  "And, fine rooms they are.  Were they really your mum's?"

"Apparently."  Lennie replied.  "The large gilded "F" above the bed would seem to indicate that they were.  I don't think the butler, Jackson, was too thrilled with the idea of my occupying these rooms.  I have a feeling nothing has been disturbed in here since the Duchess passed away."

"Funny to think o' callin' your mum 'the Duchess.'"  Violet said sympathetically.  "But, what else could ya call 'er, never knowin' the woman?  Lucky ya got such a fine brother in His Grace, and in Lord Colinshire, too.  Makes up for it."

"Quite right."  Lennie replied, glad to have such a loyal friend in her maid.  She looked around the room.  "In a way, I'm rather glad I never knew my mother.  As lovely as these rooms are--the whole estate--don't you feel that there's...there's something..."

"Strange, M'Lady?"  Violet nodded.  "Like a meanness underneath all the silk and gold?"

"Yes."  Lennie nodded.  "Maybe it's just my imagination after the rather frosty greeting we received.  Goodness knows, my brother's not said one negative word about anything here--to me.  He wants me to form my own opinion.  I confess my first impression--at least of the staff--was not a good one.  I suppose I shouldn't judge the lot just on Jackson."

"Oh, mum, you're right to do so.  They're all just as bad."

"Are they?  Have they been unkind to you?"

"Not outright.  Only it's right clear we ain't wanted here."  Violet answered.

"I can't understand why."  Lennie shook her head.  "Aside from wanting to give all of you a break from the city, His Grace brought you here so that there'd be no further burden on the existing staff upon his return.  This house--well, it has to be seventy-five rooms--at least."

"At least, Your Ladyship."

"With you and Gerard and Charles here to look after us, and Gamilla and Ethel tending to the nursery, there hardly any extra work for those who were already here.  Furthermore, Georgie will help out with the footmen and well--their cook is absent.  Mrs. Pepper and Maudie are filling a necessary position!  They should be pleased as well as welcoming.  Your accommodations, are they poor?"

"Oh, not at all."  Violet shook her head.  "We've been put at the other end of the house from the servants' hall, in fact, in rooms what I think used to be for the visiting batmen of hunters.  They're fine 'nough.  It's just that no one's said one word to us, just about us...and..."


"Oh, M'Lady, you know I talk too much."

"They're gossiping about His Grace?"

"Yes, Your Ladyship."

"What are they saying?"

"Nothing I care to repeat.  Just that they don't approve that His Grace brought Lord Colinshire with 'im and that they're..."

"I see."

"Seems most o' the lot 'ave been 'ere a long time and 'ave ideas already about His Lordship.  Seems they don't care for 'im much."

"I can't imagine anyone not liking my brother."  Lennie shook her head in irritation.  "Granted, I didn't know him before he was...'Mr. Punch,' but as His Lordship describes him, he was imply shy and kept to himself.  I can't imagine he was ever a burden to anyone."

"No, but, from what I overheard, the Duchess were none too fond o' her son, and made it known to anyone who'd listen--even the staff.  Seems they still act as if this is her house, mum."

"Well, then, I'm sure they've voiced their opinions of me!"  Lennie laughed.  "The last of the Duchess' daughters to reside here, Lady Barbara, was no prize, but at least she was legitimate.  I'm not."

"Maybe not, M'Lady, but she was a slut and a beast o' a woman accordin' to what Charlie's told me."  Violet said dryly, then she blushed.  "Oh, Miss Lennie, I oughtn't 'ave said that."

"You may alway say what you wish to me, Vi."  Lennie chuckled.  "Besides, what you say is true."

"When I think what she done to poor Master Colin.  Well, if His Grace and Lord Colinshire adn't 'ave found 'im when they did, he'd be dead now, the poor little thing.  I never met that Barbara, but I hate 'er."

"I do as well.  My own half-sister.  But, we'll never have to deal with her.  Remember, Violet, as far as anyone is concerned, Lady Barbara is dead."

"Yes, M'Lady."

"So, what have they said about me downstairs?"

Before Violet could answer, a knock on the door was followed by Punch's voice.  "May we enter?"

"Yes, of course!"  Lennie chirped.

Robert and Punch came into the room.

"Are we interrupting?"  Robert asked.

"No, Your Lordship.  I just now finished Lady Fallbridge's hair.  Don't she look lovely?"

"She does."  Robert smiled.

"The most beautiful woman to ever reside in this house."  Punch said sincerely.

"You're too much, brother dear, and I adore you for it."  Lennie laughed.

"Violet,"  Robert looked to the maid.  "We've just come from inspecting the rooms in which Jackson has put all of you.  They're acceptable, I think."

"Yes, Your Lordship."

"However, I can't imagine why you're so far away from the servants' hall."

"Because they got the taint o' our London hedonism on 'em."  Punch muttered.

Violet chuckled.  "Your Grace?  Is Master Colin settled?"

"Quite well."  Punch nodded.  "In fact, Gamilla has him all bundled in his pram looking for all the world like an angel and he and Dog Toby are waiting for their Auntie to join us on a tour of the estate."

"How, lovely."  Lennie nodded.

"I'll get your wrap, M'Lady."  Violet began.

"And, yours, too."  Punch added.  "Since Gamilla will be coming along, we thought that Gerard, and Charles and you...well, the whole lot of you might like to walk with us."

"What a treat!"  Violet clapped.  "Only, maybe it ain't such a good idea.  Won't the staff 'ere think you're showin' favorites."

"I think the point of gainin' their favor's passed us, Vi.  Don't you?"  Punch smiled.

Come back tomorrow for Chapter 5 of A Recipe for Punch.

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