Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 63

Chapter 63
A Lovely Welcome

"Matthew,"  Punch forced a smile, extending both of his hands as he and Robert descended the tremendous staircase.  "How glad we are to see you."

"I say, I'm glad to finally be here.  It's been a brutal journey to be sure."  The Earl of Cleaversworth nodded.  

"You must be weary."  Robert replied as he and Punch reached Matthew.  "I trust your man has been shown to your rooms so he might get you settled in."

"Yes."  Matthew replied.  "Perkins was taken up by two of your men.  Must have been two from the Hall.  I've never seen them before."  He studied Punch and Robert.  "To answer your question, I am weary, but, not nearly as weary as the two of you look.  Is everything in order here?  Has something happened?  Where is Lennie?"

"My sister's just upstairs and she's quite well."  Punch smiled.

"We're running a tad behind schedule."  Robert added.

"She's just changin' her gown.  She wants to look most beautiful for you."  Punch continued.

"Lennie always looks beautiful to me."  Matthew answered sincerely.  "Still, I've known this family well enough to know when something is amiss.  I've spent too many evenings with you, too many dinners at your table to be fooled by your welcoming smiles, gentleman.  Those many weeks before you left, I was as much a fixture of No. 65 Belgrave Square as the bust of Columbine above the Morning Room door.  I say, lads, you can tell what it's all about."

"Why don't you join us in the drawing room?"  Robert said.  "Whilst your man prepares your rooms so you may refresh yourself, we can tell you a bit about what we've..."  He paused looking for the right words.

"Discovered..."  Punch suggested.  "...since we've returned to my ancestral home."

"Very good."  Matthew nodded.

"This way."  Robert guided the earl toward the drawing room.

Punch took a deep breath.  While Matthew was aware of his Punchinello nature, he did try to monitor himself around the earl.  There was no need to startle him.  Matthew was, after all, especially accepting of their particularly unusual family--owing largely to his tremendous affection for Lennie.  So, Punch did try to speak in a more gentlemanly manner when Matthew was about.  Nevertheless, as exhausted as he was, he wasn't sure if he could keep it up.

"So..."  Matthew smiled, once he'd been seated.  "Your first day in your boyhood home hasn't been filled with fond memories, Punch, old man?"

Punch shook his head.  He was pleased, however, that Matthew had taken to calling him "Punch" instead of "Julian."  

"No."  Punch responded.  "Yet...we have made some interesting discoveries."

"Such as?"  Matthew asked.

"Well,"  Punch paused.  "To begin with..."  He cleared his throat.  "I've learned I have an auntie about whom I never knew."

"Is that so?  A...half-aunt?"  

"Yes."  Robert replied.

Matthew smiled.  "On whose side?"

"The Fallbridge side."  Punch answered.

"Many of these old families have aunties and uncles like that."  Matthew chuckled.  "Goodness knows mine does.  Pity you never could have known her.  As--oh, what's the word?  As...accepting as you are about these things, I'm sure you would have welcomed her into the family.  I think your way is better than the old way.  You're a good example to the peerage, Punch, old man.  Just look what you've done with Lennie.  And, the way her Majesty has supported it.  I'm all for it--well, I say, you can see that I am.  Pity, yes, I say, it's a pity that the old girl couldn't have benefited from it, too."

"Oh, but she has."  Robert interrupted.  "She's here."

"Is she?"  Matthew grinned.  "How lovely.  Don't know why, I thought she was dead.  Well, however did you find her?"

"She's been here."  Robert responded.

"Kept on as a servant or something?"  Matthew asked.

"No."  Punch answered.  "She's...she had here..."  He winced.

"How unusual."  Matthew's smile faded.

"She's an unusual woman."  Punch inhaled.  "A lovely, lovely woman.  Isn't she, Chum?"

"She is."  Robert nodded.  "Very sweet-natured.  Very gentle.  And, such a lovely face."

"I look forward to meeting her."  Matthew said cheerfully.

"We look forward to introducing you to her."  Punch replied.  "Only, there's something you should know about Morgana.  Oh, that's her name--Morgana.  You see--she's a little different?"

"Well, I saw, chap.  That's to be expected.  The whole family is a little...different."  Matthew laughed.

"Yes, yes, we are."  Punch nodded.  "Yet...Morgana is different in a different way."

"Oh?"  Matthew's smile faded.

"She really is a lovely woman."  Robert added again.

"So you said."  Matthew nodded.  "How is she different?"

"Coo!  She's a Lobster Woman."  Punch blurted out.  "Don't know no other way to say it.  That's what she is.  Pincers and all.  Ain't got no proper hands.  Got a hunchback, too.  That's not so strange compared to the rest.  Oh--and her leg and foot on the one side--like a tree, it is.  Oh, poor thing. It is pitiable once ya get past the shock of it all.  So, that's it really.  Lobster Woman.  That's what she is."  He panted.  "Otherwise, she's just like the rest of us.  And, she really is very sweet and very shy.  So, when ya meet 'er, don't try to take 'er hand or nothin'--cause she don't got any to speak of.  She won't take 'er meals with us.  We want 'er to, only she won't.  I think 'cause she can't 'old the fork and I'm ever so tired and maybe I'd best stop talkin' now.  Lennie'll be down in a minute."

"Shall I show you to your rooms?"  Robert smiled weakly.

Did you miss Chapters 1-62 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 64.  

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