Wednesday, December 11, 2013
A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 26
A Mother's Face
Robert and Punch, their dressing gowns fluttering around their ankles, followed the sounds of Lennie's screams through the passage and burst into her bedchamber.
There, they found her standing up in the center of her bed. She had pulled the bed curtains down and had protectively gathered two panels of the rose-colored velvet around herself.
"Punch!" She screamed. "Help me!"
Mr. Punch hurried to the bed and climbed atop it, standing next to his sister and embracing her. "What's happened, dear Lennie."
"She was here!" Lennie whimpered.
"Who was here?" Punch asked.
"I..." Lennie shook her head. "I can't say. It couldn't have been..."
"Dear Punch, help her down." Robert said gently.
"Yes," Punch nodded. "Oh, Lennie, you're trembling so. Do come off of here by the fire and talk with us."
"She's still in the room. I'm sure of it." Lennie shook her head.
"Who?" Robert asked, coming closer. "Miss Blessum?"
"No. No." Lennie shook her head.
"Would you like for me and Robert to search the rooms?" Punch asked.
"No!" Lennie shouted. "Don't leave me!"
"I'll ring for Charles and Gerard." Robert said, heading for the bell-push.
"You won't get 'em, Chum." Punch shook his head. "The bell goes to the Servants' Hall. Jackson's put our folks on the other end o' the house. 'Cept for Gerry and Gamilla who're by the nursery. If you ring, one o' the regular staff'll come up."
"Then, I'll go and fetch them." Robert nodded.
"Don't!" Lennie said quickly. "It's not safe." Her face fell. "Colin!"
"Colin's all well. We looked in on 'im before we went to bed. Gerard and Gamilla are just in the room next door." Punch replied.
"I'm going to look around the suite, Lennie." Robert said calmly.
"No..." Lennie pleaded. "Stay with me."
"Then, you must stand down and tell us what you saw." Robert offered up a hand.
"Come on, then, sister dear." Punch whispered. "Your brothers ain't gonna let nothin' happen to ya."
Lennie nodded and let Punch help her be lowered to the bed where she sat between Punch and Robert.
Robert placed a blanket over Lennie's shoulders.
"Did ya have a nightmare, dear?" Punch asked.
"No." Lennie shook her head. "This was real. She was here. I smelled her. I heard her."
"Who?" Robert asked.
"M...Mother." Lennie sniffed.
Punch's eyes widened. He looked at Robert.
"I know you must think I'm mad." Lennie began.
"Ain't for me to say anyone's mad, Love." Punch smiled.
"Do you mean to say that you saw the late Duchess of Fallbridge?" Robert asked.
"I know she's dead, Robert." Lennie said sincerely.
"Very dead." Robert nodded. "I tended to her myself."
"But, I also know what I saw. I awoke because I felt warm breath on my face and heard soft mewing and moaning. I opened my eyes and saw her--looking over me."
"Of course you did." Robert smiled. He pointed to the numerous portraits of the Duchess. "Even if Punch had one painting removed, there still have to be half a dozen more of her in here. She's everywhere. She's watching all of us constantly."
"Paintings don't breathe, Robert. Nor do they moan and growl. She had Mother's face, but...that was all. The rest of her was...different. Mangled, beastly...with gnarled claws. I..." She shuddered. "Of course you don't believe me."
"I believe you." Punch said. "Lennie, before I even knew 'bout you, Robert and me--we saw all manner o' strange an' awful things which neither o' us ever thought could be. And, since we met ya, you have seen with us, your share o' hideous things. There's more on this earth than we can understand. It would be pompous and..."
"Bombastic." Robert sighed.
"That," Punch nodded emphatically, "to think that we know all. I believe you."
"As do I." Robert replied gently. "Lennie, forgive me. Sometimes my scientific brain argues with my memory and my heart."
"I understand." Lennie said. "I don't know if I'd believe it if I hadn't seen it for myself."
"What did this...woman...do?" Robert asked.
"She was no woman. I...I'm not sure what she was. She had a woman's face. The Duchess'...our mother's face, but...I don't know what she was. I...it seemed like an eternity that we just stared at one another. Then, she reached for my face with one of her...I don't know what to call them. They weren't hands. They were claws...talons. That's when I screamed. When I screamed she bolted away as fast as a mouse. I was going to chase her, but I became tangled in the bed curtains. I don't know where she went. As far as I know, she's in that dark corner watching us right now."
"Dear Punch, did you ever encounter anything like this here before?" Robert asked.
"No...the only monster with my mother's face I ever saw here was Mother herself." Punch shook his head.
Robert nodded. "We need to do something about this. However, not alone. Let's take Lennie to the nursery. She can stay with Gamilla and Ethel and watch Colin. Meanwhile, we'll fetch Gerard and we can go for Charles and Georgie to see what this is all about."
"Come, Lennie, let's get your dressing gown." Punch said. "Where is it?"
"Violet left it on the chair by the fire." Lennie replied.
Punch crawled off of the bed to go and fetch it. As he did, he paused and stiffened for a moment before returning quickly.
Handing the robe to Lennie, he whispered to her and to Robert, "We're not alone."
Did you miss Chapters 1-25 of A Recipe for Punch? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 27.