Monday, November 4, 2013

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 6

Chapter 6:

Robert stretched and plopped into an armchair, inelegantly disarranging the array of petite-point pillows which had sat upon it for decades.  "I cannot believe the vastness of the estate."

"Nor I."  Lennie shook her head.

"Oh, you ain't even seen a quarter of it yet."  Punch chuckled.

"It rather makes Grange  Molliner look like a modest farm."  Robert raised his eyebrows.

"A fact which Mother never let Father forget."  Punch sighed.

"Until today, Grange Molliner was the largest expanse of land owned by one man I'd ever seen."  Lennie exclaimed.  "I simply cannot fathom any of this."

"You will.  In time."  Punch replied.  "The estate is vast, it is.  Thankfully Hargrave 'as been takin' care of it for...oh least twenty-five years."

"He's the...I forget the term."  Robert shook his head.

"Land Agent."  Punch answered.  "He and 'is bailiff, Causer, collect the rents from the tenants and manage the cottages and the few shops.  We'll look at those tomorrow, we will.  They also work with the parson from the parish church.  Mother apponted 'im, too--Mr. Quick."

"Quick?"  Lennie squinted

"Quick."  Punch nodded.

"So, this Hargrave manages the estate?"

"With a tight fist.  Never thought the tenants cared for 'im much, neither 'im nor Causer.  Nor Quick for that matter.  Only, Mother adored 'em all.  So, they stayed.  They are efficient, I'll give 'em that.  Now, I'm 'ere, I s'pose, I'll 'ave t' make a point to see just how well the place is run really."

"I had no idea that all of this went on here,"  Robert shook his head.  "Until today, I rather imagined this to be like Grange Molliner--land filled with trees and deer.  I did not think of all the people who lived on and worked the land."

"Oh...this is a workin' duchy.  The estate makes money and quite a lot of it.  'As since the time of the Tudors.  That's when all this started and Mother's family grew in power.  Fallbridge Hall's the symbol o' all of it--standin' up 'ere with its towers and pointed arches."

"It makes my head spin."  Lennie shook her head.

 "I think you're all startin' t' see why I prefer Belgrave Square."

"I do, dear Punch."  Robert nodded.  He rose to join Punch on the sofa. 

Lennie took Robert's chair.

"As do I.  However, brother dear, it's all so beautiful here.  I know...I am seeing it through new eyes and through the eyes of someone unaccustomed to such a world."

"As am I."  Robert nodded.  "I, too, find it beautiful, but..."  he paused.  

"Go on, Chum."  Punch urged his companion.

"There's something...well, I can't quite put my finger on it."

"Something just beneath the surface?"  Lennie nodded.

"Yes."  Robert nodded.

"Something uncomfortable?"  Lennie continued.

"Quite."  Robert said.

Punch sighed.  "You sensed it sooner than I thought ya would."  He straightened up from his slouched position on the sofa as the door to the library opened.  Seeing that it was only Ethel bringing Colin to them, he returned to his comfortable position.

"There's our lad."  Robert said brightly.

"All pink-cheeked from his time 'round the estate."  Ethel giggled.  "He's 'ad his snack and he wanted his papas and his auntie.  So, I 'ope Your Grace doesn't mind, but I thought I'd bring 'im down."

"I never mind,"  Punch reached for the child.

"I also thought Gamilla and Gerard might like some time to settle in on their own.  Ya know..."  Ethel smiled.  "Without me hangin' 'bout."

"Probably so."  Lennie chuckled.  "Ethel, why don't you stay and talk with us for awhile?"

"Could I?"  Ethel asked.

"You do at home,"  Punch smiled, "No reason ya shouldn't 'ere."

"Well, that butler frowned at me terrible wicked when he spotted me on the stairs just now."

"He ain't the master o' the 'ouse, now is he?"  Mr. Punch winked.

"No, he ain't, Your Grace."  Ethel laughed.

"What do ya think of it here?"  Punch asked.

"It's big."  Ethel nodded.

"That it is."  Robert smiled.

"And, a little scary."  Ethel confessed.

Punch nodded.

"M'Lady?"  Ethel turned to Lennie.  "Whose this woman what's in so many portraits 'round the 'ouse.  Even in statues and such?"

Lennie licked her lips and paused.  "I don't exactly know, Ethel."  She looked to her brother.  "Is she our mother?"

"Yes."  Punch nodded.  "Ethel, that's Pauline, the Duchess of Fallbridge.  She were the mother of me and Lady Fallbridge."

"Oh..."  Ethel inhaled.  "I can see a bit of her in the shape o' your face, Your Grace.  She were terribly beautiful."

"She was that."  Punch answered.  "I take after the Molliner side of my family, however.  That's where I get my dark eyes and auburn hair.  Lady Fallbridge's light eyes are very much like our mother's."

"Are they?"  Lennie asked.

"They are."  Punch nodded.  "Only in shape and color.  Yours sparkle with sweetness while hers were lit by a different fire."

"Well, Your Grace, there sure are a lot o' pictures o' your mum 'round 'ere."  Ethel said.

"Pauline liked to look at herself."  Punch answered.

"Only we ain't got even one of her at home."  Ethel continued.

"I don't like looking at her very much."  Punch smiled.

"Oh."  Ethel nodded.

"Ethel,"  Robert spoke up, "do you think Colin likes his new nursery?"

"I think he likes to be wherever we all are."  Ethel grinned.  "Though he were callin' out 'Punch, Punch, Punch.'  That's why I brung 'im down."

"It was good of you."  Lennie replied.

"I s'pose I oughta leave you gentlefolk to your talk."  Ethel said politely.  "Lest that butler come in and look at me again."

"Don't  be afraid of him Ethel."  Punch answered.  "You remember--always--our household, wherever we are, is what we make it.  You are part of our family and you are always welcome with us.  Remember.  No matter what anyone else here says or how they look at ya."

"I will, your Grace."  Ethel grinned.  "I'll come back for Master Colin before teatime."

"That'll be fine."  Mr. Punch replied.

"Thought maybe I'd take Dog Toby for a quick walk, if I might."  Ethel continued.

"Only if you take Georgie with you."  Robert nodded.  "I'd prefer you always take George or Maudie or someone with you when you leave the house."

"Yes, Your Lordship."  Ethel replied.  "Thank you."  The girl hurried out.

"She's uneasy."  Punch mumbled.

"What's that, brother dear?"  Lennie asked.

"Oh, nothin', Lennie."  Punch forced a smile.  "Come 'ere by the fire and let's play with this sweet boy, shall we?"

Come back tomorrow for A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 7.

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