Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 75

Chapter 75

Georgie Pepper moaned as the light filtered through his eyelashes.

"Stay still, my boy."  An unctuous voice cooed.

He felt something cold and damp on his forehead.

Squinting, George tried to focus his eyes.  He felt a strange, bilious tickling in his guts, and coughed.

"Poor lad,"  The voice whispered.  "Don't hold it in."

Panting for breath, Georgie attempted to sit up, but found that he couldn't.  He groaned loudly.

"You're sick, my boy."  The man continued.  "You've made yourself sick with the devil's water.  The wages of sin, lad."

Forcing his eyes open all the way, George winced as the sunlight made his head both pound and spin.  The agony behind his eyes seemed tied with a thick rope which ran through his body and to his stomach--a great noose of pain and nausea which seemed to tighten.

"I'm going to help you," the man smiled.

"Who are you?"  George panted.

"I am Mr. Quick.  You're safe, lad, here in the vicarage."

"The vicar."  George muttered.  "Sir, I've got to get back to the Hall.  My mum...  They're all expectin' me."

"Lad, there's no hurry.  I've sent word to the great house.  Mr. Causer himself has gone to tell His Grace where you are.  By now, your mother has stopped her worrying.  She knows you're with me and that I'm looking after you."

"Are you sure?"

"Quite sure, young man."  Mr.  Quick murmured.

"What happened to me?"  George asked.

"Sin, lad.  Sin has happened to you.  You were tempted and you were weak.  And, now, I shall make you strong again."

"I'd like to go back to my mum, and to...Dr. Halifax...His Lordship is a doctor.  He can help me."  George argued though it hurt his head to do so.

"Do you really thing Lord Colinshire can help you?"  Mr. Quick chuckled.  "It's your soul which is sick, young man.  There's nothing that can do for that.  Only I can help you now."

George coughed.  He thought he heard a sound coming from a room behind them.

"Who is that?"  Georgie asked.

"My maid, lad.  She's prepared a tonic for you.  It'll help your body to recover from your sinful ways so that your soul can be made pure again."

"I'd rather...I want his Lordship.  He's a proper physician."

"There's nothing proper about Lord Colinshire.  Nor about His Grace, the Duke."  The vicar argued.  "You are in the proper place for you."  He leaned in.  "Now, let me help you sit up so you might take your tonic."

"I don't want it."  Georgie shook his head.  His irritation gave him strength and though he was still in agony, he rolled over and pushed himself up.  It was then that he saw that he'd been bound.  His feet were lashed together with rope.

"Don't make me tie your hands, boy."  Mr. Quick sighed.

"Why am I..."  Georgie began.  "I..."  He sputtered.  "You haven't told them anything.  No one at the house knows I'm here."

"Are  you doubting me?"  Mr. Quick growled.

"Yes...yes, I am!"  George yelped.

"I told you,"  Ivy Blessum cackled as she came forward from the back of the vicarage.  "They're all like this, the whole lot of them from London.  I knew he'd struggle."  She carried a beaker of a liquid so foul that George could smell it even from a distance.

"Mind yourself, Ivy.  I told you to stay in the kitchen."  Quick snapped.

"He'd have seen me soon enough."  Ivy barked.  "Now, if you would, vicar, hold his head whilst I pour this down his gullet."

"I did hope to do this more gently."  Mr. Quick muttered as he rose to restrain George.  Putting his arm around Georgie's throat, he immobilized the young man's head.  "There's no subtlety to anything you and Jackson so.  There's none of the hand of God in it."

"My dear vicar,"  Ivy laughed.  "God's hand is not in this.  You know as well as I do that the bargain we've made isn't with your Almighty."

Quick tightened his grip on George's throat.  "I know, but, it was different when it was just the monster that Jackson purchased from the curiosities show."

"She is called Morgana!"  Ivy snapped.

"You are a peculiar woman,"  Quick sighed.  "So eager to show sympathy for that deformed creature, and yet, here we have a perfectly healthy...and...very strong..."  He paused to catch his breath.  "Can't you show this boy a little of the compassion you've reserved for that beast?"

"I have no compassion for anyone!  Is that what you think?  Maybe it's true.  Maybe I can feel nothing."  Ivy shouted.  "Not even you, Quick.  I'll see you dead if I must.  My loyalty is to Pauline--the duchess--and to giving her life again.  This boy is nothing to me, nothing but a source of healthy skin!" 

She grabbed Georgie's face and pressed his cheeks together so his mouth would open.

George gasped and tried to fight, but the vicar's grasp on his neck was too strong.

"Drink up, little Pepper."  Ivy laughed as she poured the rancid liquid down his throat.  "If you were able, you'd thank me for this.  It'll take away all the pain."

She looked up at Mr. Quick.  "And, you say I have no compassion."

Did you miss Chapters 1-74 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 76.

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