Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 23

Chapter 23

"Mr. Jackson,"  Mrs. Pepper called out from her kitchens.  "I'd like to speak with you."

"As would I like to speak with you."  Mr. Jackson said from the doorway of his pantry.

"Well, then, come along here and bring Miss Blessum."  Mrs. Pepper said.  She looked nervously over her shoulder at Maudie and her son, George.

"Hope this works, Mum."  Georgie whispered.

"You come here, Mrs. Pepper."  Jackson snarled.

"Very well, if you don't mind upstairs pudding being late."  Mrs. Pepper shrugged, wiping her hands on her apron.  "And, downstairs dinner bein' off."  She stepped forward.  "Dinner down here don't matter.  As for upstairs, I'm sure the Duke won't mind his puddin' bein' late.  Though, at home, we take pride in our household and the timin' of things.  I s'pose that just don't matter up north.  Country folk are different.  I should 'ave known."

"Mrs. Pepper, I shall meet you in your kitchens."  Mr. Jackson barked.  "Just give me a moment."

"Fine, and bring Miss Blessum, then."  Mrs. Pepper nodded.  "Since she's the problem."

With that, Mrs. Pepper closed the door to her domain and exhaled.

"Now, then."  She said quickly, the moment those two walkin' beasties come in here, I want the two o' you to get to his pantry and make sure Charlie and Vi get out safe.  Quick sticks, hear me."

"Sure, Mum."  Georgie nodded.

"Yes, Mrs. P."  Maudie said.

"I didn't know what to do."  George continued.  "I didn't expect Mr. Jackson back down during upstairs dinner."

"None o' us did."  Mrs. Pepper shook her head.  "I s'pose his Grace 'ah 'nough o' the man.  Rightfully so, I'd say, too.  Sent 'im on 'is way, he did.  There was no way you coulda stopped 'im, dearie.  Only now, we gotta stall those two long 'nough for our Charles and Vi to get outta that pantry."

"That was quick thinkin' o' you, Mrs. P.--tellin' that Miss Blessum you'd not make up a tray for her."  Maudie smiled.

"I knew it'd rile 'er up and she'd go straight to Mr. Jackson.  Thought it might be a good way to get 'em both outta the way.  Furthermore, it was a queer request.  Wasn't it?  Who does she think she is?  Askin' for a tray and not tellin' me who for?  What's she like?  Never 'ave I worked in a household where I didn't 'ave to say where every scrap o' food went.  Never was there a more generous man than His Grace.  He likes to see every man, woman, child and animal well fed, but, I'd not dare give a morsel o' food to a soul without 'im knowin'."  She clucked her tongue.  "Ain't me place, and, sure it ain't the place o' that dried up ol'...well..."  She shook her head.  "I'll give 'em whatever they want if it'll get 'em outta the way long 'nough for Charlie and Vi to get back upstairs."

"I hear 'em comin', Mum."  George whispered.

The kitchen door swung open and Jackson and Ivy swept in.

"Now, Mrs. Pepper, what is this about your refusal to provide Miss Blessum with the tray which she requested?"  Mr. Jackson demanded.

Maudie and George quietly crept out of the kitchen unnoticed.

"Mr. Jackson,"  Mrs. Pepper replied stiffly.  "It is my job to provide an accounting for the food in this house.  I like to know who I'm feeding.  Just tell me who the tray is for and I'll gladly make it up for Miss Blessum."  She smiled.

"It's none of your concern, woman!"  Ivy shouted.

Mrs. Pepper narrowed  her eyes.

"Miss Blessum, please."  Jackson hissed.

"It isn't her business."  Ivy squawked.

"Well, then, there's to be no tray."  Mrs. Pepper said firmly.

"Let's not have an argument."  Jackson said quickly.  "The tray is for..." he paused, "the kitchen maid."

"Maudie will eat with us."  Mrs. Pepper said.

"Not your kitchen maid."  Mr. Jackson said.

"The one who works under our usual cook.  As you know our cook recently bore a child.  Well, her maid, at the same time accident and she's recuperating."  Jackson said haltingly.

"Oh?"  Mrs. Pepper said.  "What sort of accident?"

"It's...a private matter."  Jackson answered.  "That's why Miss Blessum didn't wish to say anything."

Mrs. Pepper nodded.  "Very well.  I'll make up a tray."

"Fine."  Jackson said.

Panicking, Mrs. Pepper feared that George and Maude hadn't enough time to get Charles and Violet out of the pantry.

"Mr. Jackson," she began, "what sort of dinner would..."

However it was too late, Jackson and Ivy had already left the kitchens.

"How ever did you come up with that one?  Kitchen maid? An accident?"  Ivy whispered in Jackson's ear.

"It was as if Her Grace spoke it to me herself."  Jackson beamed.  His smile faded and he gestured forward.

There, in the servants' hall, they found Maudie, George, Charles and Violet quietly sitting near the fire seemingly looking at a colorful book of chromolithographs.

"Isn't that nice?"  Ivy scoffed.  "All of them pretending they can read."

"We can read."  Violet looked up.  "All of us."

"You'd be surprised how much we know."  Charles smiled.

Did you miss chapters 1-22 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 24. 

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