Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 16

Chapter 16:
Any Help

"Mr. Iantosca?"  William approached Charles hesitantly.  "Might I be of any help?"

"I don't think so, no."  Charles shook his head.  "I do, however, appreciate that you've offered.  You're the only person downstairs who has shown us any kindness today."

Gerard joined his friend at the table in the Servants' Hall where he was sorting through his kit.  "I'll second that."  He sat down.  "Sit with us for a few ticks, William, if ya don't think Mr. Jackson will mind."

"He's gone to his pantry as he does this time every day.  He won't come out until the dressing  gong is sounded."  William smiled.  "None of them will.  And, as it's my job to sound the gong..."

"Wait..."  Charles squinted.  "What good is it to sound the dressing gong if there's no one upstairs?  Of course you'll do it now with the house occupied, but...you do it when it's just the staff?"

"Oh, yes."  William nodded.

"Whatever for?"  Gerard laughed.

"Mr. Jackson has us do all things as if Her Grace were still alive and just upstairs waiting for us to serve her."  William replied.

Gerard clucked his tongue.  "Here, you never knew the Duchess.  Did ya?"

"No."  William shook his head.  "I came here to take Arthur's duties when word came that he had died.  By then, her Grace had already left for America as well.  I was only to be here temporarily."

"Yet, you're still here."  Charles smiled.

"I am."  William sighed.  "I'd been borrowed from Burwell Hall--just north of here.  Seemed so many things happened at once here.  First Arthur didn't come back and they needed help.  Then, the news came that Her Grace was dead.   Then, the housekeeper, Mrs. Foster, died and another footman who was also called William died o' the same fever.   I was busy with Arthur's duties and the other William's.  When Mr. Jackson went away with Mr. Hargrave and Mr. Quick, I think they forgot I'd been borrowed from Burwell Hall.  My old masters replaced me after awhile and by the time Mr. Jackson returned I rather figured he thought I was the other William."  He shrugged.  "I suppose we did look a bit alike--especially in livery.  I need the job.  So, here I stayed."

"Maybe one day, you'll find a happier position.  You seem a smart, sensible lad."  Gerard nodded.  

"Thank you, Mr. Gurney."

Charles agreed.  "Who knows? if you continue to demonstrate that you're kind, maybe His Grace will take pity on you and take you back to London with us."

"I'd like that."  William smiled.  "I've never been anywhere.  I never had a chance to leave Yorkshire."

Charles' smiled faded.

"Is something wrong, Mr. Iantosca?"  William asked.

"No."  Charles shook his head.  "I was just thinking about something you said.  Did you say that Mr. Jackson went away after the Duchess died?"

"Yes."  William nodded.

"Where did he go?"  Charles asked.

"I don't know, Sir."  William shook his head.  "He and Mr. Hargrave and Mr. Quick were gone for many weeks.  Mr. Hargrave is the Land Agent.  He left Mr. Causer, the bailiff in charge in his stead."

"I see."  Charles nodded.

"Who is this Mr. Quick?"  Gerard asked.

"The parson."  Charles answered for William.  "Remember...His Grace told us."

"Oh, yes."  Gerard nodded.

"Who ran the household while Mr. Jackson was away?"  Charles asked.

"Gregory."  William frowned.  "As if it weren't already bad enough."  He glanced up at the clock.  "I'd best go up and ring the gong.  Do let me know if I might be of any help with your kits or in dressing the masters.  I don't mind doing even the smallest thing.  I just like to be helpful."

"William, you've been more helpful than you know."  Charles said sincerely.

Did you miss Chapters 1-15 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 17.  

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