Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 397

Chapter 397
I Say

Lennie blushed as she finished her song.

"Just lovely, dear Lennie."  Robert applauded.  "Your voice is so true."

"Oh, thank you, brother dear."  Lennie shyly replied.

Mr. Punch wiped a tear from his cheek.  "Don't know where you got that voice, I don't.  Certainly not from our mother."

Lennie shrugged uncomfortably.

Punch quickly changed the subject.  "You're a gift, you are, my dear.  I celebrate each day that we found one another."

"As do I,"  Lennie smiled.  "That song...I did used to dream, when I dared.  Not so much of dwelling in marble halls, though, as it turns out, I am.  However, I did dream of...having a name.  Somehow, I...it's hard to describe...I always knew in my heart that I was different from the others.  That I wasn't really a Barrett.  I could never quite decide how I was different, but I was, and it made me feel as if I never had a place in the world.  I think that's why it was so effortless to hand my name over to Orpha Polk.  I never felt like 'Ellen Barrett.'  And, then, brother dear, through pain, there you were...and I felt at once that I had a place in the world.  You gave me a name.  Not just your surname, but, 'Lennie.'  Now, I feel as if I'm a true person.  I'm grateful for these marble halls, and for the title which I've been granted by Her Majesty, but just to be 'Lennie Molliner' is that childish dream of mine realized.  To know that no matter what, my brother...my brothers...love me still the same."

"As do I, my dear."  Matthew smiled.

"And, I you, Matthew."  Lennie replied.

"A fine evening, we've had."  Mr. Punch sighed contentedly.  "Just the start o' many more.  I'm so very proud of you, Lennie.  Proud to call you my sister and to know you'll grow old with me and my Robert, and watch our Colin grow into a fine man as smart as his one papa and as...well..."

"As loving and ingenious as his other."  Robert grinned.

"I say,"  Matthew chuckled.  "We are a soppy lot tonight."

"Tonight?"  Robert stood.  "We're always like this, old man."

"Quite right."    Matthew nodded his approval.

"Now, if you'll all forgive me, I think it's time for me to retire.  No doubt Gerard is eager to be finished with me so he can return to his wife.  Dear Punch, will I see you shortly?"

"Oh, yes."  Punch smiled affectionately.

"I, too, should turn in.  Violet and I have an early start tomorrow.  We're off for bonnets and passementerie.  Would you gentlemen like to join me on our expedition?"  Lennie teased.

"Decidedly not."  Robert laughed.

"I might."  Punch replied.  "I like all the colors and such."

"You're not going shopping for millenary."  Robert laughed.  "I need you here, dear Punch.  You know I don't know what to bring with us to Yorkshire.  I need your guidance."

"My guidance.  Ha!"  Punch laughed.  "We'll both put upon Charlie.  That's the way to do it."

"Delightful."  Matthew said sincerely.

"What's that, Cleaversworth?"  Robert asked.

"How you all get on.  I say, I find it increasingly difficult to leave these evenings with all of you."

"It's a good thing, it is.  You'll be rather trapped with us in Yorkshire, and once you've married my sister, you're gonna spend most nights with us,  you are."  Punch replied.

"I look forward to it--truly."

"As do we."  Robert nodded.  "Good night, Matthew.  Punch, do come up soon.  I...should like that."

Punch blushed.  "I will."

"Good night, Matthew."  Lennie said.  "I'll expect you tomorrow."

"Indeed."  Matthew nodded.  "I suppose I should be taking my leave now."

"Oh, do stay a bit, Matthew."  Punch shook his head.  "You and I can chat, we can, while you finish your brandy."

"Very kind of you, Mr. Punch." 

"Don't be too long,"  Robert grinned.

"I shan't."

"I'll walk  up with you, Robert."  Lennie took Robert's arm.

"Good night,"  Punch waved.

Once alone, Matthew nodded.  "It's kind of you, Your Grace, to keep me company."

"It's my pleasure."  

"I haven't felt a part of a family since Mother and Father passed."  Matthew answered softly.

"Never thought you'd be a part of a family like ours, I'd wager.  Only you are now.  And, you took to us quite well, I'd say.  After all, we're not the most...usual...of families."

"No."  Matthew agreed.  "I...well, I say, Mr. Punch, might I be honest?"

"Coo!  I hope you would be."

"At first I didn't understand."

"Which bit?"  Punch laughed.  "That I got one than more person inside me?  That the Duke of Fallbridge calls 'imself Mr. Punch and talks like a roughian?  That Robert and me are...what we are?   That we got a son?  That we want our son to know he's got two fathers?  That he's really me nephew?  That Lennie considers both of us her brothers?  That we adopted the orphaned daughter o' a murderess?  That we treat our servants like they're kin?"

"Yes.  All of it."  Matthew chuckled.  

"You seem to 'ave no problem with any o' it."

"I don't."  Matthew answered.  "Which, frankly, surprises me a bit.  Or, at least it did at first. I say, Mr. Punch, I've never known anyone like you."

"Which bit?"  Punch asked again.

"Well...any of it.  I say, I was taught that men like you and Robert were..."

"I know.  I've heard all the words, I have."  Punch nodded.

"And, I say, I never knew that a man could have more than one...spirit or mind or...being...within him."

"Most don't know."

"Yet, I've seen this...beautiful family here.  I say, it's far more affectionate and caring and loyal than any other I've ever known.  A family headed by...two men.  Yet, it's...so utterly whole."

"Because it's gotta be.  We don't 'ave the convenience o' bein' regular.  Conventions don't apply to us.  So, we gotta stay closer, be more attentive and protective to see that what we got is not disrupted."  Punch replied.

"I think it's brilliant, and, I'm humbled by what I've learned from you.  All of you.  I say, old man, I'm...I'm honored that I'll one day be a part of this."

"Oh, Matthew.  You already are."

Only Chapters 398, 399 and 400 remain in Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.  Come back tomorrow as our story comes to its conclusion.

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