Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 66

Chapter 66
How Much Trouble?

"Oy,"  The new man called out.  "You there."

"Who's that?"  Mrs. Pepper squinted.

"I think it's the earl's valet, Mrs. P."  Maudie answered.

"Right,"  George Pepper nodded.  "Join us."  He waved the man over to the kitchens where he leaned on the counter talking with his mother and Maudie.

"Finally, some friendly faces."  Perkins smiled.  "These Yorkshire folk haven't had a kind word for me."

"Nor us."  Maudie shook her head.  "We keep to ourselves, Mr. Perkins."

"We don't even have rooms in the attics with the rest of the staff."  George nodded.

"Is that why that burly chap showed me to a room in a wing far off?"  Perkins squinted.

"Yes, Mr. Perkins.  His Grace made sure we were well taken care of.  He wanted us separate from the Hall's staff.  Seems that includes you as well."  Mrs. Pepper replied.

Perkins nodded.  "Can't say I mind."

"Has Lord Cleaversworth gotten settled-in, then?"  George asked.

"He has."  Perkins nodded.  "He's with your masters and Her Ladyship now.  I've not seen Mr. Iantosca nor Mr. Gurney.  Where've they gotten to?"

"Gerard's with his wife in the nursery at present."  Mrs. Pepper replied.  "Not sure what Charles is about.  Probably tendin' to somethin' for His Grace."

"I forgot how informal you all are."  Perkins smiled.  "Callin' everyone by their Christian names as you do."  

"His Grace doesn't stand on ceremony much of the time."  George shrugged.

"In that case," Perkins grinned.  "You all might called me Freddy."

"So we shall,"  Maudie nodded.

"In some households when we've visited, I don't even get the luxury of me own surname.  I get called by the master's."  Perkins sighed.  "Like I ain't a man o' my own."

"Here, you'll be happy to know, you're thought of as a person."  Mrs. Pepper smiled.  

"I'm glad of it."  Freddy Perkins began to relax.  "Say, who's the butler here.  It's not that big chap, is it?"

"Gregory?"  Maudie laughed.  "Mercy, no!"

"There ain't a butler here.  Not anymore."  George shook his head.

"Did ya bring Mr. Speaight with ya?"  Freddy asked.

"No."  Mrs. Pepper replied.   "His Grace only just dismissed the butler.  We're just making as best we can until a decision is made on the subject."

"Makes sense."  Freddy nodded.  "So, what's for fun in these parts?"

"Fun?"  George asked.

"Sure, what's for a lark?"

George shrugged.  "Dunno.  Who's got time for a lark?"

"Well, they go to bed, don't they?"  Freddy grinned.  "What do ya do at night?"

"Polish their boots, and then go to bed."  George laughed.

"There's a village, ain't there?  All great houses like this support a village."

"Course there is."  Mrs. Pepper answered with a hint of irritation in her voice.

"Well, then...what's there?  Must be a pub.  I like a good snort now and then.  Makes things interestin'.  I been hopin' there's a pub--one o' them dusty ones like you find up here."

"No doubt there is."   Mrs. Pepper answered.  "Only we wouldn't know.  We got things to do here.  Ours is not to go out at night without permission.  And, my George is a good lad and doesn't break the masters' trust doin' what he oughtn't."

"Sure, sure."  Freddy nodded.  "I wasn't suggestin' that he was, Mrs. Pepper."

"Speakin' of which,"  Mrs. Pepper said.  "George, maybe you'd best go find Charles and see if he don't need your help in layin' out His Grace's dinner things."  She looked to Freddy.  "It'll be time for the gong, soon enough."

"I understand, Mrs. Pepper."  Freddy replied.  "You'll be wantin' us outta your kitchen."

"Come, Freddy.  I'll show you back up to the earl's room."  George smiled.

"Mind yourself, Georgie."  Mrs. Pepper said firmly.

George nodded.

The two young men went off.

"Ah, Mrs. P., don't fret.  George is a good lad."  Maudie said gently.  "I s'pect Freddy is, too.  He's just talkin' as boys do.  After all, he is Lord Cleaversworth's man, and never was there a duller fella.  How much trouble could Freddy Perkins be, livin' in that household?"

"That's just the kind of household that breeds trouble."  Mrs. Pepper shook her head.  "The kind where the young men downstairs get bored."

"Well, then, our lad won't never get in no trouble."  Maudie winked.  "No time to get bored in our household!"

Did you miss Chapters 1-65 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 67.

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