Tuesday, January 14, 2014
A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 40
"So," Mr. Punch took a deep breath as he continued his address to the servants from his London townhouse, "it seems the woman who carried off our Vi is...my Auntie. My Auntie 'bout whom I never knew."
From their various seats in the drawing room, Charles, Ethel, Maudie, Georgie, Mrs. Pepper, Gerard, Gamilla (holding Colin), and Violet looked up at him.
"It's true." Violet replied. "She told me so herself. And, to see her face, and to look at all these portraits of the late duchess, you could see they're most surely sisters."
"Did your grandmother have her sent away, Your Grace...because of...her...?" Mrs. Pepper paused.
"No. I don't believe that's the case, Mrs. Pepper." Punch answered. "See, from what I know, it seems, Morgana--that's her name--was born out of--out of the marriage. Of my grandfather and...someone else."
"Oh," Mrs. Pepper nodded.
"A family tradition." Charles grumbled.
"What's that, Charles?" Punch smiled, having heard him.
"Sorry, Your Grace." Charles blushed.
"What is she, Your Grace?" Maudie spoke up. "With them...claws and...horrible..."
"Maudie..." Ethel gasped. "She's his Grace's auntie."
"Well, Ethel, only you didn't see her, did ya? It wasn't you she pushed over and knocked the wind out of was it?" Maudie said firmly.
"It's all right, Ethel." Punch nodded. "Maudie...any of you may ask anything you like. Remember, we are all part of this household, and it is my wish for all of us to be comfortable, it is." He looked at Maudie. "My girl, best I can answer is that she's a woman. She's a woman who's very sick. That's what makes her look as she does."
"Is it catchy?" Ethel asked. "I ask only for the sake of the baby."
"No," Robert spoke up. "The sort of deformity which Morgana exhibits develops prior to birth usually when the mother contracts some sort of fever."
Ethel looked confused.
"It ain't catchy." Punch shook his head. "His Lordship 'plained it to me thusly. He said that before Morgana was born, instead of growin' fingers like the rest o' us, her fingers sort o' fused together like the claws o' a lobster. He ain't quite sure 'bout the ridges o' her back and the growths what make her leg so lumpy, but..." He looked to Robert.
"We discover new disorders of the connective tissues every day. Sadly, many of the people who suffer from these conditions are treated very poorly and often end up in these beastly curiosity shows where they're put on display and humiliated for public amusement. That seems to have been the case with His Grace's Aunt Morgana." Robert explained. "I can't be sure what exactly ails her as I've not had a chance to examine her. She's shy of physicians, likely because she received cruelty at the hands of a less-than-honest doctor in the past, so, I shall have to win her trust."
"Win her trust, Your Lordship?" Charles sputtered. "She abducted Our Violet!"
"Not with the intention of harming her." Punch shook his head.
"With what intent, then?" Charles asked.
"She was curious about me, Charlie." Violet explained. "She thought my hands were pretty. She wanted to get a better look at me. The poor thing has been so used to being hidden away she thought the only way to get a look at me was to carry me off."
"So, she knocked me over?" Maudie snorted.
"She didn't mean to hurt you." Violet shook her head. "She apologized for it."
"Not to me, she didn't." Maudie frowned, rubbing her head.
"She will," Punch said quickly. "I don't think she realizes how strong she is."
"Your Grace, is all this leading to your telling us that your intention is to keep this woman?" Charles asked.
Punch answered. "Yes."
"In a house with your little son, your governess who is with child, your adopted daughter who visits from school; a household with your gentle sister and many female servants, all of whom could be harmed by this woman?" Charles asked forcefully.
"No one will be harmed by her." Punch shook his head.
"Gerard said she's killed two people." Charles continued.
Gerard looked to the floor.
"It's true." Punch answered. "I don't deny it. Nor would Morgana. She would tell you herself that she did so. She feels quite guilty about it. She did not mean to do it."
"Your Grace," Charles argued, "You'll have your son grow up with an aunt who has killed people?"
"I'll have him grow up with also with you, my valet who's own brother murdered my own beloved father." Punch said flatly. "I happen to understand forgiveness."
Charles face blanched.
The room grew silent.
Finally Maudie whispered to Ethel. "Is that true? Was it Charles' brother what killed Sir Colin?"
"Yes...I'll tell ya 'bout it later." Ethel whispered back.
"My dear friends," Punch said after awhile. "I don't know any more about this woman than what I've told you. I don't know how she's come here other than that Mr. Jackson purchased her from a traveling curiosities show. I've dismissed Mr. Jackson by the way, I have. Don't know where he's gone to, neither. Only I know he's gonna have to come back for his things since I know he's taken nothin' with 'im. When he returns, I aim to find out more about why he done this. I'll also find out more from Miss Blessum and Gregory--they're the other two what seem to have known about Morgana bein' here. Can't imagine why he bought her or when or what he were thinkin', but he done it, and she's here, and she's my family. I can't turn her 'way. I know she ain't so easy to look at, but, it ain't her fault, it ain't. But, she's actually rather sweet."
"She really is," Violet nodded. "You'd think I'd feel different given what she done to me, but I found her to be quite sweet once she started talkin' to me."
"I want her to come back to London with us so she can get help and maybe live out the rest of her life in some sort o' comfort. Everyone deserves that. I can't make no promises, I can't. If it turns out we can't live with her, we'll find a place where she can live comfortably, like we done with Her Ladyship's cousin, Roger. Or, like we done with Fern. We ain't a family what turns it's back on our own. Bugger, Fern ain't even really our own, and we still take care o' her, so I sure as hell ain't gonna leave Morgana out in the cold."
"Well, Your Grace, I think you're doin', the right thing." Mrs. Pepper said proudly.
"As do I, Your Grace." Georgie nodded.
"Maudie? Ethel?" Robert asked.
Maudie smiled. "We always trust anything you three do. Don't we?"
"That we do." Ethel nodded.
"Charles?" Lennie asked.
"I'm sorry that I spoke out of turn. I was worried for Violet, Your Ladyship." Charles explained.
"As were we all." Lennie replied.
"If Your Grace wishes to care for Miss Morgana, then we shall do so." Charles answered.
"Thank you, Charles." Punch nodded.
"You know how I feel," Gerard smiled.
"I do, Gerard." Punch said. "Yet, the only person we've not heard from his your lovely wife. Gamilla? What say you?"
Gamilla looked up thoughtfully. "I agree with you, Your Grace."
"However," Gamilla shook her head. "There's some cloud around Miss Morgana. One that ain't her own. Someone wicked...somethin' wicked obscures her vision...her image. When I shut my eyes, I can see with my gift you, Miss Lennie, His Lordship, all of us, even Mr. Jackson and Miss Blessum, but, there's a fog around Miss Morgana. I don't get a sense of evil from her. Just the opposite. But, there's somethin' tryin' to get at her. Somethin' bad, Your Grace. Somethin' terrible bad. And, that's the thing we must watch out for."
"You've no idea what this 'thing' is?" Lennie asked. She blushed. "I'm sorry, I...I don't understand your gift as well as His Lordship and His Grace do. I wasn't in America with you. I'm not as well versed in this...voodoo."
"It ain't voodoo, Your Ladyship. It's just what I see in my head." Gamilla smiled. "And, no, I can't say because I don't know. Just sometimes I hear laughter and some words..."
"What words?" Punch asked.
"Words I can't repeat mostly. Sometimes Lobster Girl."
"Miss Morgana told me that's what they called her at the Freak Show." Violet said. She looked embarrassed. "I am sorry to use the word."
"It's all right, Violet." Punch nodded. He sighed. "Gamilla, this 'fog,' is it the same thing you felt when you came to get me from my old rooms earlier? The same sense of wickedness?"
"Yes, Your Grace." Gamilla nodded.
Scratching the back of his neck, Punch inhaled. "I think it best that the rest of you all try to get a few hours of sleep. Lord Cleaversworth will be arriving later today. Meanwhile, Her Ladyship, Lord Colinshire and I will be sorting out the staff here. So, we'll need you to be fresh for when Lord Cleaversworth arrives in case there's no one left downstairs. Ethel, would you mind tending to Colin so Gamilla can..."
"I already planned on it, Your Grace." Ethel stood up.
"Thank you." Punch grinned. "Oh, and, just for my peace of mind, and such, since Jackson's roaming about, lock your doors."
With that, the staff retired, leaving Lennie, Punch and Robert in the drawing room.
"All right, dear Punch, what's on your mind?" Robert asked.
"Something is gnawing at you, brother dear. After Gamilla spoke, I saw a thought take hold that troubled you." Lennie looked at her brother with concern.
"Not a thought, so much as a voice of me own." Punch sighed.
"Oh?" Robert squinted. "Not one of...the others?"
"Not 'xactly. Julian."
Lennie looked worried. She'd only known her brother as Mr. Punch and had never experienced any other "personality."
"Did he speak to you?" Robert asked.
"Just a word." Punch nodded.
"Oh?" Robert asked.
"Panrty." Punch nodded. "I think we need to go have a look 'round Mr. Jackson's pantry."
Did you miss Chapters 1-39 of A Recipe for Punch? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 41.