Thursday, March 6, 2014
A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 72
A Good Little Soldier
"Your Lordship," Gerard smiled as he opened the drapes of the bedchamber. "Good morning."
Robert moaned softly. "Already."
"I am afraid so," Charles added as he assisted Gerard with the drapes.
Gerard brought Robert his dressing gown. "Were you able to sleep?"
"Like the de..." Robert began. He changed his mind. "Like a baby." He sat up and looked over his shoulder, "What of you, dear Punch?"
His face went pale when he saw that Punch was not in his place.
"His Grace isn't here." Charles shook his head. "His dressing gown isn't where I left it last night."
"Where is he?" Robert bolted out of the bed, snatching the robe from Gerard's hands.
"He's likely gone to the nursery to look in on Master Colin," Charles suggested.
"No." Gerard shook his head. "His Grace wasn't in the nursery. Only Ethel was in the nursery with Colin when I left Gamilla to come here."
"Bloody hell!" Robert growled, wobbling a bit on his feet as he tied the dressing gown around his feet.
Gerard helped steady his master.
"Perhaps he's gone to see Miss Morgana or Her Ladyship." Charles suggested. "And didn't wish to wake you."
Robert inhaled. "Perhaps." He leaned over and felt Punch's side of the bed. "He has been gone quite awhile. The bedclothes are cold." He looked at Dog Toby who sensed his master's panic. "I wish you could talk. You know where he went."
"I've prepared your basin for you," Gerard smiled.
"I'm going to look for His Grace first." Robert shook his head.
"Your Lordship," Charles began.
"Charles, you are not going to tell me that there is no reason to be concerned, are you? You are aware of what's gone on here in the last day." Robert snapped.
Charles nodded. "I am aware, Sir. I was going to suggest that though Dog Toby cannot speak, he might be able to help you find His Grace. You know how Toby is always able to locate the duke in the house. I suppose he follows his sense of smell as dogs do."
"Of course. Good thinking, Charles. I apologize for being so... irritable."
"Not at all, Your Lordship." Charles smiled. "I would be equally so, in your position."
"Here are your slippers," Gerard interrupted. He paused. "There is one more thing."
"Yes," Charles nodded. "We'd intended to tell Your Lordship and His Grace together. We had not anticipated His Grace not being here."
"What is it? Colin's all right, isn't he?"
"Oh, yes, the baby is just fine. Her Ladyship and Miss Morgana are well also." Charles answered.
"It's Georgie Pepper." Gerard began.
"Is he ill?"
"No, Sir. Neither he nor Lord Cleaversworth's man, Perkins, are in their room. Their boots are gone. It appears that they left the house. Neither bed has been slept in." Gerard responded.
"That's just what we need!" Robert spat. "Does Mrs. Pepper know?"
"She does, Sir. She's livid." Gerard replied.
"As she should be. What could that boy have been thinking? I tend to forget that Georgie is as young as he is. Still youth is no excuse for being an idiot! Whatever could have compelled him to leave?"
"I suspect that Perkins is a bit of a wild lad." Charles shook his head.
"I wouldn't have thought our George so easily swayed." Robert grunted. "Youth. Bah. Matthew's arrival has proven to be more trouble than..." He trailed off. "Never mind that now." He pressed his hands together. "Does the earl know? Is Lord Cleaversworth aware that his man has trotted off?"
"No, Your Lordship. He has not awakened yet." Charles replied.
"Does anyone else know that our young men have gone out what I can only guess is a country spree?" Robert asked, hoping that it was only that and nothing to do with the strange goings-on of the last day.
"Except Gamilla, not yet." Charles replied. "We didn't see the need to worry any of the girls. We told Mrs. Pepper, of course, since she's George's mother. I don't think she's said anything to Maude or Ethel. We haven't mentioned it to any of the Hall's staff as, to be perfectly honest, they don't really care what goes on with us."
Robert shook his head. "Well, they're going to have to. They work for His Grace, don't they? Gerard, run down, would you, and send someone to look for them? One of the younger men who know the estate well. William or...if need be that wretched Gregory though sending him to anyone's aid is rather like sending a fox off to rescue a hen."
"Yes, Sir." Gerard nodded.
"Charles, come with me, we'll see if Toby can't sniff out His Grace. I can't imagine that he'd leave the house in his dressing gown and slippers. I just fear that..." Robert squinted, rubbing his temples.
"There's no need to explain, Sir." Charles said softly.
"I'll find you and help you look when I come back up," Gerard said, as he left.
"Thank you, Gerry." Robert nodded. He picked up Toby and whispered to the terrier. "Here boy, help me find Punch. Let's go find Mr. Punch. Right. Mr. Punch! There's a good little soldier."
Toby wagged his tail and headed for the door.
"Charles, this is the second time that His Grace has wandered out while I was sleeping..." Robert sighed as they followed the dog into the passage.
"Oh?" Charles responded.
"The first time, he felt compelled to go to his old rooms..." Robert stopped. "Oh, why didn't I think of that sooner?"
Toby confirmed what Robert suspected as the terrier trotted in the direction of the suite which had been Julian/Punch's home for decades.
Charles and Robert followed quickly behind.
Did you miss Chapters 1-71 of A Recipe for Punch? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 73.