Monday, October 21, 2013
Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 400
"You asleep, Chum?" Punch rolled over and whispered in Robert's ear.
"No, dear Punch."
"Don't ya know what time it is?"
"The clock in the passage rang 'one' just a bit ago." Robert replied.
"Right." Punch nodded. "So, do ya know what that means?"
"It means we are going to be late for breakfast."
"No." Punch chuckled. "It means it's tomorrow."
"Today." Robert teased.
"Sure, sure." Punch said. "Here, light your candle."
"I don't want to. You light yours."
"Light your candle, Chum." Punch repeated.
"But, it's so warm and nice under the bedcovers with you. If I sit up, I'll get cold." Robert joked.
"You wouldn't be if you wore a proper nightshirt like you're meant to." Punch answered.
"But, then, you'd not be able to admire my magnificent physique." Robert laughed.
"Oh, true. I do like that." Punch nodded. "But, go on, light your candle, Chum."
"Very well." Robert conceded, rolling over and fumbled for a strikeable match from his vesta. He lit the candle and as he was about to cover himself again, noticed a wide, low, leather box on the bed-stand. "What's this?"
"It's for you." Punch sat up, clapping his hands.
"It wasn't there when we retired."
"I've been up and about."
"I thought I heard you flopping around." Robert laughed.
"I don't flop." Punch squinted. "Now, go on, open it."
Robert opened the box and smiled. "How lovely. What a beautiful set of buttons."
"I made 'em." Punch said proudly. "Well, I designed 'em. They was made elsewhere. Can't melt gold here. But, look...see...there's a crest on each. All set in diamonds and rubies and sapphires and emeralds."
"I see. It's...it's not the Fallbridge arms."
"No! They're your arms."
"I don't...I don't have a coat of arms. My title, it's...well, Colinshire didn't exist until you gave me the land."
"I know! I created the arms for ya! Now, Colinshire's got a proper crest and all, it does. Just as it ought."
"I don't know what to say." Robert became emotional.
"Do ya like it?"
"More than you could ever know." Robert replied.
"Good, 'cause I've had stationery printed with it, too. After all, you are Baron Colinshire, and you oughta have a proper crest."
"You're too good to me."
"I ain't good enough to ya." Punch shook his head. "You...well, Chum, without you I'd be long gone. You saved me, you did."
"I did no such thing. If anything, you saved me."
"Let's not argue 'bout it." Punch laughed. "Not today. It's a special day. I'll bet you don't remember why though, I'll bet."
"Two years ago today, I met you--Mr. Punch--for the very first time when you came into my former practice."
"You remember." Punch sighed happily. "You'd already seen me, you had. Only it was Julian what was usin' the body. In May..."
"At the Great Exhibition."
"But, on this date in September of 1851, I--Mr. Punch--came to you for the very first time."
"I loved you then...right on sight, though, I must say, you did confound me a bit."
"You just wasn't sure why I was talkin' as I was." Punch laughed. "Prob'ly thought it was from the beatin' I took."
"I didn't know what to think."
"Doctored me up real fine, you did." Punch said proudly. "So, that's why I thought we'd celebrate the day. Sure, it were 'orrible what happened, gettin' jumped by them blokes and all, but, it were also the day what brought me to you. See--'cause o' you, Chum, I decided that even at the worst of times, there's something to celebrate. When we recall the 'orrible stuff, we should remember the good first."
"How I adore you, dear Punch."
"And, me, you, Chum." Punch nodded. "I figure that...errr...thinkin'...what's it called? Philosophy! That'll do me well when we're in Yorkshire. Gonna be lots to recall what ain't so good, but, if I can think o' the good things what come outta them, well, it'll be easier to show you and Lennie and our Colin the best parts of what bein' a Fallbridge is."
Robert embraced his companion. "By now, one would think that there'd be little left about you which could surprise me, yet, you continue to. Each day, I'm a little prouder of you than the day before."
"Go on, Chum. Here, you'd best get back under the bedcover. Don't need you catchin' a chill right before we go."
"First, light your candle."
"I was thinkin' you should extinguish yours." Punch winked.
"Every so often, you might try to do as I say." Robert laughed.
"Very well." Punch nodded, lighting the candle on his bed stand. There, he saw a handsome, leather-bound notebook with an enameled cover and a diamond set cypher of "P.M." surmounted by the Fallbridge ducal coronet.
"Coo!" Punch exclaimed. "This weren't here..."
"I was flopping about earlier, too."
"You really were floppin' about, you were." Punch examined the notebook. "Oh, it is fine."
"I wasn't quite sure of the cypher. Your official cypher is an "F" with your coronet. However, you are, above all else, my Punch Molliner."
"It's perfect. You're so thoughtful and sweet and kind, and..."
"Possessed of a magnificent physique." Robert joked.
"And modest." Punch laughed. "But, I do love it. Thank you." He flipped through the gilt pages.
"I thought that you might use it to record your thoughts while we're in Yorkshire."
"That'd be helpful." Punch smiled.
"You've not looked at the inside of the back cover."
"Oh?" Punch smiled, opening the journal to the back. Therein, was a miniature of enamel on copper depicting Punch holding Colin next to Robert who held Dog Toby. In the foreground, on a table, a puppet figure of Mr. Punch was prominently on display.
"Coo!" Punch said.
"I wrote to Her Majesty and asked if she could arrange for Henry Pierce Bone to create this miniature based on the studies which Winterhalter had finished for the portrait of us which Their Majesties had commissioned. I think it came out rather well."
"Now, even if I'm writin' down the strangest of thoughts, I just have to turn to the back o' this journal to see the whole reason I exist."
"We're always the end of the story, dear Punch. Always. You and me and Colin. Even Dog Toby." He paused, "and, Lennie, of course."
"We'll see." Robert chuckled.
"You really did remember our day, too." Punch grinned. "Ain't we just the best?"
"We are." Robert nodded, snuggling into the down of the bed. "However, if we don't get some sleep, we won't be the best tomorrow."
"Of course, now, I'm wide awake." Robert extinguished his candle before sinking further into the down.
"You know what I do when I want to fall asleep?" Punch asked.
"No, no. Listen, I think 'bout the house."
"Yes, our house. This house. No. 65 Belgrave Square. I imagine that it's...it's like a doll's house. Ya know? All small and miniature and such. And, the front opens up and I can see inside, all the rooms. And, everyone in the house is small like dolls."
He blew out his candle.
"Close your eyes, Chum, and picture it." Punch continued.
"Very well." Robert shut his eyes.
"The front of the house opens up. Start at the servants' hall. There's Speaight, all small, like a doll. He's in his pantry, polishing the crystal and he's smiling and hummin' like he does when he thinks no one can hear. And, then, in the kitchen, there's Maudie. She's scraping the flour from the board and sayin' good night to Mrs. Pepper. All 'o 'em small like dolls. And, Mrs. Pepper climbs the back stairs, and as she does, she passes right by the mornin' room. Ya know, where the hidden door is. And, there, in the mornin' room is Lennie at her writing desk. She's writin' a little note to Matthew, and she pauses to touch the petals of some roses what he sent her. She's happy and peaceful. Can you see it?"
"And, then, on the floor above is Georgie. He's in the library, cleanin' the grate and he's cheerful 'cause he's gonna go up to bed. But, first, he'll stop and talk to Charles and they'll joke with each other and maybe Charles'll tell 'im a bawdy joke."
"Punch continued, then on the floor above is us--we're tucked into our bed...close to one another and warm. Dog Toby is curled up next to us, snoring like he does. And, then go up another floor, there's the nursery and Colin is asleep with Ethel lookin' over 'im from the rockin' chair. Next door are Gerard and Gamilla, snuggled together, chattin sweetly to each other. Then, up in the attics. Charles is on the men's side, alone in his room, thinkin' o' what he'll say when Georgie gets up there. On the other side is Violet, brushin' 'er hair and thinkin' 'bout how much it's grown. Her thoughts wander to Charles and what he's doin' all them doors away. All's quiet and all's peaceful and everyone is safe and content and where they oughta be. And..." he paused and listened to Robert's deep, rhythmic breathing, realizing that the man had fallen asleep.
"Yes," Punch whispered to himself. "All's quiet and peaceful and everyone is where they oughta be."
This marks the conclusion of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square. Many thanks to those who've read. I've you missed any of the four hundred chapters, over the next week, I'll be completing the chapter archive, which, just as I've done with Punch's Cousin, will remain as long as this site is here.
In one week, I invite you to join me for the continuing story of our friends as I launch, A Recipe for Punch, which will take our heroes to Fallbridge Hall and a host of new adventures.