Monday, March 17, 2014

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 76

Chapter 76
I'll See to It

"My Georgie,"  Mrs. Pepper wiped her eyes on the corner of her apron.  

"Mrs. P.,"  Maudie said gently.  "I'm sure George will be on his way back just now, and he'll be that sorry for makin' you worry.  Ain't like he's a bad boy, Mrs. P.  In all the time I known 'im, he ain't done one thing what's wrong.  Now, you know how boys are.  Weren't it just a matter o' time before he done somethin' like this.  It's in their nature to go out and carouse.  He'll be back just now, you'll see, and all red in the cheeks for feelin' guilty."

"You're a love, dearie."  Mrs. Pepper shook her head.  "You tryin' to cheer me, I love ya for it."

"You'll see, Mrs. P.  You know I'm right.  That man of the earl's, he just...he and all his were too much temptation.  When I think o' all the tears and worries me own cousins brought my auntie--well, it makes me sure how lucky we are that George is a good boy."  Maudie continued.  "Listen, Mrs. P., you got yourself all weak with worry.  Let me finish breakfast, then.  Why don't ya go to your room and have a nice lie down?  I can manage here."

"Now, not another word like that, Maudie.  I can't very well leave ya to finish upstairs breakfast on your own."  Mrs. Pepper shook her head.

"Upstairs breakfast is easy, Mrs. P."  Maude smiled.  "We got the hard one done with.  We got 'em all fed downstairs.  You--all brave and strong--you got the whole lot o' 'em with a fine warm breakfast in their bellies--more than they deserve, too, I'd like to add.  They've not had one kind word for us, have they?  Yet, you give 'em better food than they've had here--likely ever.  There ain't nothin' to upstairs breakfast.  You know the Duke likes his eggs and a slab o' bacon.  Her Ladyship  don't eat much at all, and I got the fruit she likes all nice and clean, ready for her salad.  Lord Colinshire's kedgeree is all set and the earl will eat anything we put in front of 'im provided there's a cream sauce on it.  I can manage that, and, servin' up the cinnamon cakes.  I even got the copper o' oatmeal ready for Miss Morgana--I just need for William to bring it to her room."

"But, what of our lot?"  Mrs. Pepper asked, her eyes filling with tears again.  "Our folk haven't had their's yet with Charles and Gerard out lookin' for my George and, now...and, what of nursery breakfast?"

"Mrs. P., I already sent up nursery breakfast with William.  I got a nice bit o' gammon and some eggs set aside for Charlie and Gerry and our Violet run down before she set out for Her Ladyship's rooms and had a bit o' toast and butter."

"You do have it, then, don't you?"  Mrs. Pepper shook her head.  

"I learned how to manage a kitchen from the best,"  Maudie smiled.  "Now, dont' go thinkin' I can handle it on me own all the time, but for one mornin', I think I can.  So, please, go rest.  After all, you gotta get the luncheon ready soon."

"I think I will, then."  Mrs. Pepper nodded.  "Oh!  That boy.  How could he be so foolish?  If 'is father were alive, what a dressin' down he'd get."

"He'll get it from you, no doubt."  Maude winked.  

Mrs. Pepper took off her apron and folded it neatly on the sideboard.  "Just a bit o' rest, then."

"I'm glad."  Maudie smiled.

"Oh, my girl, I couldn't 'preciate ya more if you were my own daughter.  When our Jenny was taken from us so young, I...I didn't think we'd 'ave another angel in our kitchens, but, it's as if she sent ya here herself."

"I think maybe she did."  Maude replied thoughtfully.  "Sometimes I feel like I knew 'er.  Ain't that silly?  Sometimes, I feel as if this girl what I never knew is standin' right beside me."

Mrs. Pepper became emotional again.  "I can't lose my George."

"Nor will ya."  Maudie shook her head.  "Now, go on, Mrs. P."

"Send a boy for me if you need me, then?"  Mrs. Pepper nodded.

Maude nodded.

"Right."  Mrs. Pepper nodded absent-mindedly as she left the kitchens.  She didn't eve notice William as she walked past him.

"Poor lady,"  William shook his head.  

"She's strong, our Mrs. P."  Maudie snapped.  "You don't need to pity her."

"Sorry,"  William looked down.

Maudie sighed.  "No, no.  I shouldn't 'ave been sharp with ya.  I s'pose I'm worried, too.  Ain't like George to go off.  Only, it ain't your fault.  You're the only kind one here.  Forgive me."

"It's nothing."  William answered softly.  "I know how the others are.  They ain't all bad.  It's just they're scared.  Mr. Jackson and Miss Blessum had them all trained to be silent."

"I wish Gregory'd been silent.  You know this is his doin'?  I don't say I think that Perkins man is ain't at fault, too.  But, this is that Gregory's wickedness."

"I agree with you."  William inhaled.  

"You've come for Miss Morgana's tray, then?"  Maudie nodded.  "I'll get it prepared.  Oh, and with Gerard and Charlie off lookin' for George, we'll gonna need ya in the mornin' room for upstairs breakfast.  I was meant to tell you that."

"Charles told me."  William nodded.  

Maude smiled.  "You're a good man, thank you.  I know Charles and Gerry like ya.  They're gonna ask His Grace if maybe you can't come back with us to London."

"Cor, I'd love that."  William sighed.  

"Maybe you could get yourself a nice lad.  There's others like ya in London.  Just look at the masters."

"I'd like to just be free of the...of this place.  That's all I'd like.  Such hypocrisy here."

"Oh?"  Maude asked as she prepared Morgana's tray.

"Well, sure.  Take Mr. Quick."

"Who's that?"

"The vicar."  William replied.  "Many's the time I caught him takin' glimpses at me.  Once, when I went for a swim in the...he even..."  He shook his head.  "Yet, he's the first to shout 'sinner' at me.  He's a strange one, he is.  Then, there's those beastly two--Hargrave and Causer.  The things I've heard they done in the village, and around.  Yet, both o' 'em have roughed me up a few times--callin' me, 'sick.'  Makes my skin crawl.  This one time, they brought me to Mr. Quick's--to the vicarage.  They'd bloodied me somethin' awful and they were gonna bring me to him to take away my sin."  He paused.  "They're just a rough lot."

Maude squinted.  "They're like Gregory, then?"

"Don't you know they are."  William shook his head.

"I'm awful sad to hear they treated ya poorly."  She clucked her tongue.  "William?"  Maude put the cover on Morgana's tray.  "About our George..."

"I know what you're gonna ask."  William nodded.  "I thought the same thing."

"What's the parson's name?"

"Quick."  William answered.  

"You don't suppose that he--that they maybe done the same to him like what they done to you before?"

"Could be."  William leaned in.  "Maudie, I hear what they say about His Grace and Lord Colinshire.  Mr. Causer and Hargrave and Quick--they think all of you are tainted by their 'sins.'  I've heard 'em talkin' in the orchard.  I thought maybe they got their hands on George.  I even asked Gregory if it were true.  But, he won't say anything as he hates me so."

"Did ya tell Gerard and Charles?"

"No."  William shook his head guiltily.  "I was scared to.  If them three found out I'd said somethin', they'd come after me."

Maude nodded.  "Listen, William, I can promise ya that the Duke would take ya back to London if you'd help bring George back to us."

William looked frightened.

"They ain't gonna let nothin' happen to ya.  The masters are kind and they take good care of us."

"I should tell them, then."  William nodded nervously.  "Only, I can't just walk into their rooms and..."

"Here,"  Maude handed the tray to William.  "Bring this up to Miss Morgana, and come straight back.  I'll see to it you get an audience with the masters."

"I don't know..."  William shook his head.

"Could those men you spoke of--could they harm our George?"

William looked down.  "They could."

"Then, you gotta talk to His Grace and Lord Colinshire!"  Maude hissed.

"Very well, I will."  William said softly.

"Just leave it to me, then."

"What can you do, Maude. You're just a kitchen maid."

"Ain't no such thing as 'just' anything!"  Maude said.  "The Duke and His Lordship always let us know that we're all free to speak, especially when it's important.  We can't think of ourselves as bein'...less."

William took the tray and nodded.  

"Come right back here, then.  You understand.  I'll see to it."  Maude said firmly.

Did you miss Chapters 1-75 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 77.

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