Monday, November 11, 2013

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 10

Chapter 10:

"There were several of them."  Punch explained, holding the enamel, gold and diamond-covered notebook in his lap.  "Pretty, ain't they?"

"Very."  Robert nodded.

"Ought to be.  I designed 'em."  Punch sighed.  "Or...I should say Julian did."  Punch looked up at Maudie.  "Julian's me, Maudie.  Or...I'm Julian.  Or, we're part o' each other."

"I know, Your Grace.  Gamilla and Charles and Gerard explained to me how it all works."  Maudie smiled.

Charles blushed.  "I hope you don't mind, Your Grace."

"No."  Punch shook his head.  "I'm glad you did.  Maybe you can 'xplain it to me one day."

Charles smiled.

Punch continued.  "See, Mother ordered Julian to have several of these made.  There were five.  One was used to send orders from Mother to Mrs. Foster.  One to the cook.  One to Jackson.  One to Ivy.  One to Hargrave.  And, one to Quick."

"I know that Hargrave is the Land Agent and Quick is the Parson.  Ivy was your mother's maid, but who is Mrs. Foster?"  Robert asked.

"Mrs. Foster was the housekeeper.  She died while you and me was on our way to America.  I never mentioned it to ya, Chum, I don't think.  At time, it didn't seem to matter what with all we had goin' in Louisiana.  She were a beast o' a woman was Mrs. Foster--well-matched in temperament to Mother in many ways.  They loved one another, they did.  Got some kind o' fever.  Gave it to one o' the footman, too.  An older lad what were also called William only he weren't near as pleasant as our new William seems.  Though Jackson had most o' the power downstairs already, with Mrs. Foster gone, he 'ad it all, do, she weren't never replaced.  Especially since Mother 'erself were gone, and I stayed in London.  Weren't no one to press 'im to replace 'er."

"Our mother thought it necessary to have such elaborate books made for the staff?"  Lennie asked.  "At such an expense?"

"Well...not for them.  They were for her.  She never much liked the feel of card, see.  She liked cold things.  So, when somethin' were returned to her with a message or such, she preferred it be cold.  All the better for her to be presented with a notebook covered in diamonds than one with a cover o' card and leather."  Punch shrugged.  "See, when we was a boy, the book she used with Nanny Rittenhouse, it was leather and just the touch of it made her feel all the angrier it did...I remember the one time when Nanny'd just finished lashin'..." Punch paused.

He shook his head.  "That ain't for 'ere and now."

Lennie sniffed.

Mrs. Pepper cleared her throat uncomfortably, sensing the Duke's pain.  "So, Your Grace, what Maudie found must've been the book what your late mum used to send messages to Cook."

"That's right."  Punch opened the book.  "Right, yes.  It's menus and such.  Cook would send 'em up each mornin' for Mother's approval.  Mother would sign it if she approved, or, if not, make changes and go through a whole kerfuffle.  I rather like our way better where you come upstairs or I go down and we talk 'bout what we're gonna eat."

"I do, too, Your Grace."  Mrs. Pepper grinned.

"Where did you say you found this, Maudie?"  Punch asked.

"In the larder, Your Grace."  Maude answered.

"That makes sense."  Robert nodded.

"Go on, Maudie."  Charles nodded.  "Tell His Grace the rest."

"Yes, dearie."  Mrs. Pepper said.  

"Maudie, there ain't nothin' you can say you seen in this house what'll surprise me."  Punch smiled.

"See, Your Grace, there's an alcove in the larder--kinda hidden-like.  I went lookin' for more rosemary for them sandwiches what His Lordship and Miss Lennie like so, I mean Her Ladyship...and I found...well, there's spot in a cupboard filled with burned-down candles and all these small paintings, little round ones all o' this dark-haired lady with pale eyes.  Well..."  Maudie pointed.  "That lady right there."  She indicated to the portrait above the hearth-piece.

"Ah."  Punch nodded.  "That would be our Mother."

"Oh."  Maude replied softly.

"In the larder?"  Robert squinted.

"How peculiar."  Lennie wrinkled her nose.

"Not really, my dears."  Punch shook his head.  "They truly worshipped her downstairs."

"Whatever for?"  Robert scowled.

"Chum..."  Punch smiled, reminding him that they were going to let Lennie draw her own conclusions about the late Duchess without coloring her thoughts.

"Maudie,"  Punch stood up.  "You did well to return this to me, you did.  And, in just the right room.  I'll put this just here on this shelf with Mother's other books.  If you come across other things what she'd written, we'll add them to the collection, too.  They're part of the family history whether they mean something to me or not.  Who knows what they'll mean to someone else?"

"We'd best get back downstairs and let these gentlefolk get to their tea before it gets cold."  Mrs. Pepper replied.

"And before Mr. Jackson 'as a fit."  Maudie laughed.

"Would serve 'im right if he did."  Mrs. Pepper whispered.

"Would you see the ladies downstairs, Charles?"  Robert asked.

"I thought, I'd serve, Your Lordship."  Charles replied.

"I'll play mother, Charles."  Lennie smiled.  "Go on."

"Very well."  Charles nodded.

"Thank you all."  Robert said.

Once the servants had left, Lennie began poring the tea.  "Oh, brother dear, chopped egg.  Would you like one? Or three?"

"Just tea for now, Lennie."  Punch answered, joining Robert on the sofa.

"Oh?"  Lennie raised her eyebrows.  "But, they're your favorite."

Punch shook his head.

"That book unsettled you."  Lennie sighed.  "I'm so sorry."  She took a deep breath.  "What did you begin to say about lashes?"

"You know, I think I will have a sandwich."  Punch spoke up.  "And one o' them chicken ones, too.  What 'bout you, Chum?"

"Yes, I will, too."  Robert nodded.

"Punch Molliner,"  Lennie interrupted.  "I asked you a question."

"I know you did, my dear.  Only, it's just our first day.  Let's just relax.  There's time 'nough for the house to introduce itself to us and for all the ghosts within to reach out their hands and give us their orders.  Tonight, let's celebrate bein' together, and Matthew comin' soon, and all the wonderful things what we got to look forward to.  Let's not look back.  Let's eat chopped egg and chicken and talk 'bout how handsome Robert looks in  his green velvet and how pretty you look in your violet silk."

"As you like it, brother dear."  Lennie nodded.

"Look!"  Punch smiled.  "Scones!"

Did you miss Chapters 1-9 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 11.  

No comments: