Friday, February 28, 2014

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 68

Chapter 68
The Scavenger

"May I come in?"  Robert asked.

"Certainly,"  Morgana nodded as she tucked her pincers under her blankets.

"I was feeling a bit envious.  Everyone else has had a chance to sit and chat with you today, so, I thought I'd steal a moment to do the same."  He smiled.

"You''re all so kind to me."  Morgana replied.

"Did you enjoy your dinner?"

"Oh, yes."  Morgana answered.  "Your Mrs. Pepper is such a fine cook.  Never before have I had such...such delicious.  Oh, yes.  Violet brought up a lovely, lovely tray for me.  I enjoyed it very much."

"If there's anything special you'd ever like, do let one of us know, and we'll be sure to let Mrs. Pepper know, Auntie."  Robert began.  He cleared his throat.  "I hope you don't mind if I call you 'Auntie.'  I know that you're not really my aunt, but..."

"I am to understand that you and Punch are to be thought of as the equivalent of wedded people.  Yes?"  Morgana smiled slightly.

"Well, yes."  Robert responded shyly.

"And, you consider Lennie to be like your sister?"


"Then, why should I not be your Auntie?"  

He grinned.  "I am glad.  Thank you."

"It is I who should be glad.  Never before have I been..."  She shook her head.  "So...wanted."

"You're very much wanted.  You see, my brother and his wife and my nephew--they are in America.  Until Punch and I found one another, I had no family left here."

"Now you have a large family.  You've Punch, your boy, Lennie, me, and that girl ward...everyone has a particular way of calling her."

"She's called Fern."  Robert answered.

"No, no.  There's a way of calling her."

Robert blushed.  "We tend to refer to her as 'poor, sad, strange Fern.'"

"That's it."  Morgana nodded.  "Why is that?"

"Because even by our standards--which are fairly generous--the child is strange."  Robert chuckled.

"Oh dear."  Morgana laughed a little, too.  "I suppose I shouldn't be amused."

"It's quite all right.  Fern finds it amusing herself.  It's one of the things which helps to make her so odd."  Robert shrugged.  "Now, I suppose I should leave you to your sleep.  It is late."

"I'm not tired.  Still...I...I... imagine Punch is waiting for you."

"He's chaperoning the post-dinner tete-a-tete of Lennie and Matthew.  I have no doubt he'll want rescuing soon.  I'd been sent up to look in on the nursery and thought I'd take the opportunity to look in on you as well."

"I'm glad you did."  Morgana sighed.  "Robert, you know she's coming for me?  My sister."

"I know."  Robert inhaled.  

"Talking of strange!  I never knew her!"  Morgana laughed.  "And, she's dead."  She shook her head.  "I'm the one they put in the freak show.  Imagine."

"Auntie,"  Robert leaned in.  "There's something else.  I didn't want to worry you tonight with it..."

"Oh, I already know."  Morgana shook her head.  "Ivy Blessum has gotten free."

Robert's eyes widened.  "How did you know?  I only just discovered it!  I haven't told anyone at all.  Not even Punch!  I went up to inspect the cell before I went to the nursery."

Morgana took a quick breath and help up her pincers.  "Robert, do you see the scars on my...on my...whatever you'd like to call them?  On my skin?  Half of these scars were made by Miss Blessum.  Burns and lashes, the bled and became infected.  I can feel her in every one of them.  When she's near, they itch.  I knew she was free.  They burned."

Robert nodded slowly.  "Whoever could have released her?  Jackson?  Gregory?"

"No, dear boy."  Morgana shook her head.  "No human hand did that."

"I didn't think so."  Robert sighed.  "I was afraid to say it."

"The same hands which locked you in that crypt freed Ivy Blessum."   Morgana continued.

Robert rose and pressed his hands together.  "I just want all of us to return to London."

"It will only follow us."  Morgana replied.

"Do you think so?"  Robert asked.

"The scavenger never stops until it is satiated."   Morgana sighed.

Did you miss Chapters 1-67 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back Monday for Chapter 69.

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