Friday, November 1, 2013

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 5

Chapter 5:
Midnight Spider

"William, step back from the window, please."  Jackson snapped at the young footman.

"What'd I do, Mr. Jackson?  I was just watchin' the master and his guests."  William replied.

"Guests?"  An older woman snorted from a nearby chair.  She smoothed her severely pulled-back, graying hair.  "Most of them are servants just like the lot of us."

"Quite right, Ivy."  Jackson nodded.

"And, there's Lord Fallbridge, squirin' them around the estate like they're visitors from the House of Lords."  Ivy continued.  "And, one of 'em an African."

"Oh, don't forget," Another man chimed in as he entered the servants' hall.  "He's not to be called 'Lord Fallbridge' anymore.  He's a Duke, that one."

"He is a Duke, Gregory."  William spoke up.  "And, we ought to treat him as such."

"I'll tell you what 'e is,"  Gregory growled.  "He's a midnight spider."

"A what?"  William asked his fellow footman.

"A margery, a nancy."  Gregory spat.  "In other words--like you."

"Please,"  Jackson barked.  "Gregory, there are ladies present."

"Only Miss Blessum."  Gregory grinned, indicating Ivy.  "And, she knows as well what the little fey Duke is as the rest of us."

"His sainted mother, rest Her Grace's soul, always complained of it."  Ivy sighed.

"And, 'im, comin' in 'ere and takin' 'is Mary-Ann to stay in 'is rooms with 'im."  Gregory howled.

"There's nothing wrong with two men being close."  William argued.

"Here, you would say that."  Gregory laughed.  ""Furthermore, the bugger is mad.  Look at what 'e's done since he's been 'ere.  Cares more 'bout them servants from London than he does us.  You shouldn't be so quick to defend the madman, Willy.  Remember, he threw you over for his own valet."

"Wanting his own valet hardly makes him mad."  William replied.

"Oh, but he is mad."  Ivy nodded.  "Has been since a boy.  Terribly strange little person.  Such a disappointment."

"He's the master of this house and the Duke of Fallbridge.  He could sack the lot of us, so I think we'd best be kinder."  William replied.

"William, get off with ya."  Gregory snapped.

"Gregory is correct."  Jackson replied.  "The others will be in from their duties soon, and as soon as His Grace returns the cook to us, we'll prepare for upstairs tea.  Furthermore, I noticed some tarnish on the morning room candelabrum.  Look alive, lad."

"I'd best be getting to my mending, too."  Ivy stood up.  "I'm strengthenin' the beads on the gown which Her Grace wore to the Huntsman's Ball in '42.  Oh, it is lovely."

"Very good, Ivy."  Jackson replied.  And turned.  "And, you Gregory?"

"I think I'll wait 'ere for them Londoners to come back.  The blonde one's nice to look at."

"You'll do no such thing.  See to it that the drapes in the library are drawn."

"Yes, Mr. Jackson."  Gregory grumbled.

Jackson waited for everyone to leave before retreating to his pantry where he paused before donning a long white cloak over his uniform.

Removing a small silver key from the pocket of the cloak he unlocked a cupboard at the farthest corner of the dim room.

"Your Grace,"  He smiled.  "Forgive me for saying it, but for the first time today, I felt it best that you no longer have life in your lovely body.  If you saw what your son has become..."  He shook his head.  Reaching forward he smiled again.  "Oh, but you are so beautiful today..."

Come back next week when, on Monday, I'll post Chapter 6 of A Recipe for Punch.

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