Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 21

Chapter 21:

"There's a queer smell in here,"  Charles wrinkled his nose and shook his head as he and Violet cautiously made their way into Jackson's pantry.

They'd made sure that only Georgie was in the servants' hall.  The native staff of Fallbridge Hall had all gone off to see to their other duties while Jackson, Gregory and William attended table at upstairs dinner.  With Georgie standing guard and Mrs. Pepper and Maudie keeping an eye on the stairs so they might distract anyone coming down, Charles felt comfortable taking Violet into the peculiar butler's domain.

"There is."  Violet frowned.  "Like perfume and rot."  She clucked her tongue.  "Not two smells what you think of when ya put your mind to a butler's pantry.  Our Mr. Speaight would 'ave a fit if even the bogs at home smelled like this.  Wish we were home now."

"I rather do as well."  Charles nodded.  "I suspect we won't be home before long.  God knows His Grace doesn't wish to linger here, and, I have a feeling Lady Fallbridge has quickly realized that this is not the delightful ancestral home of which she'd dreamed."

Violet raised her eyebrow.  "I don't think Her Ladyship quite knew what to expect."

"I wasn't saying anything disrespectful about Lady Fallbridge, Vi."  Charles smiled.

"Oh, I know you weren't, Charlie."  Violet nodded.  "I just feel sad for her, is all.  Poor, little thing.  I could tell she was frightened by that Ivy woman, and, this place does make her feel ill at ease. Rotten luck that she and the master got such a wicked mum.  Both o' 'em bein' such lambs as they are."

"At least Lady Fallbridge never had to know the Duchess."  Charles nodded.

"Can't argue that."  Violet sighed.  "From what all I heard--from you and Gamilla and Gerry. His Grace don't like to speak of it.  Lord Colinshire's made a comment to me now and again 'bout the Duchess bein' a cow when she were livin', but he stops 'imself when His Grace or M'Lady is 'bout."

"With good reason."  Charles replied.

"Yet, all these blokes here, they act like the woman was some kind of saint.  It don't figure.  Is it because she was so beautiful?  I'll give 'er that.  She was pretty."

"Not when I saw her."  Charles half-chortled.  "Still, I can see that she was a handsome woman.  Her daughter looked much like her."

"Miss Lennie don't look a thing like those portraits..."  Violet began.  She paused.  "Oh, you mean the other one.  The one you had..."

"Barbara."  Charles nodded.

"Did you love her?"  Violet asked.

"I thought I did."  Charles answered honestly.  "I was very fiercely devoted to her.  I'd have done anything she'd asked of me.  In fact, I did.  However, it wasn't love, Vi.  She'd cast some sort of spell over me.  I can't describe it.  She was very much like her mother, I think.  Devious.  Wicked."

"She's still livin'."  Violet said softly.  "Ain't she?"

"As far as any of us are concerned, Vi, she's dead.  Lady Barbara is dead."  Charles replied.

"But, she ain't, though."  Violet shook her head.

"Lady Barbara died the moment she left this house with her child in a canvas sack."  Charles said firmly.

"She done that?"  Violet's eyes widened.

"She did."

"You mean...Colin.  Colin?  Little Colin?  She done that to that sweet angel?  I knew she was the lad's real mum, and his pa was any number o' men, but..."

"Now, you see, Vi."  Charles nodded.  "As far as we're all concerned, Lady Barbara is dead.  As far as anyone must ever know, Colin was adopted by His Grace from a wealthy American family lost to the Yellow Fever.  The woman is not worth remembering, and, frankly, neither is her mother.  That's why the devotion to the late Duchess of Fallbridge is so confounding."

"You said when  you and Gerry was told somethin' by William earlier what gave ya pause.  'Bout how Jackson and that Land Agent and the Parson all went off for awhile after the Duchess were killed.  You seem to think it strange--strange 'nough for us to be snoopin' 'round in here.  But, why?  Maybe they 'ad estate business to tend.  Place like this--all sorts of business needs doin'."

"Business involving a butler, a Land Agent and a vicar?"  Charles shook his head.  "We know that the Duchess enjoyed the...company of her male servants.  Not just Johnny Donnan in Scotland at Grange Molliner."

"M'Lady's pa."  Violet nodded.

"I know for a fact that the Duchess had her way with one o' His Grace's past footmen--Arthur."  Charles continued.

"The wicked one what was caught up with Lady Barbara."  Violet nodded.  

"And who knows how many others?"  Charles sighed.  "You see how keenly devoted Jackson is.  What's to say that he wasn't one o' her many paramours?"

"And, if he was?"  Violet shrugged.

Charles shook his head.  "I don't know."  He looked around.  "All I know is that I've got that same uneasy feeling in my gut--that same feeling I had when Ulrika Rittenhouse showed up in London.  I just want to see if there's anything in here that could be of danger to the masters, Lady Fallbridge or little Colin."

"Charlie!"  Violet hissed, grabbing his arm.  "Shhh..."


"Georgie's talkin' to someone."

Charles paused.  He could hear George's loud voice on the other side of the door.  The lad sounded frantic.

"But, Mr. Jackson..."  George was saying...

Did you miss Chapters 1-20 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 22.

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