Friday, April 4, 2014
A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 87
A Fairy Story
If Jackson was surprised to see Lennie and the girls descend into the crypt he didn't show it. He simply turned to face them and bowed slightly to Lennie.
"I suppose, Lady Fallbridge, you've come to pay your respects to your mother, in her final resting place?"
"Never mind why I'm here, Jackson." Lennie snapped. "Why are you here?"
"For the same reason as you," he replied dryly. "To honor your mother's memory."
"You had ample opportunity over the last month's to honor my mother's memory. Yet, you chose a most peculiar method--trussing her up in a cupboard like some salted gammon to be cured for the winter."
"If you were a man," Jackson snarled, "I would strike you for that."
"And, if I were a man, I would forcibly remove you from my brother's estate. Jackson, you've been dismissed of your duties and barred from this land. What gall you have to be seen here. Why on earth would you think you were welcome on the estate, let alone the family chapel--the family crypt--unless you were at some unwelcome business which meant harm to my family?"
"I mean no harm to you, Lady Fallbridge." Jackson replied casually. "You were never really a concern of mine--nor your mother's for that matter. You were nothing to her. This is, perhaps, why it was so easy for her to give you away to Johnny Donnan's sister."
Lennie inhaled. "Girls, run back to the Hall and fetch His Grace and His Lordship before they leave for the vicarage. Send them here to me at once."
"I don't like to leave you, M'Lady." Violet whispered.
"I can handle myself with some feeble old man." Lennie replied. "Still, if you'd prefer, Violet, you may stay. Ethel, Maude, please hurry!"
"Yes, Your Ladyship!" Maude nodded, taking Ethel by the arm. The two girls ran off, climbing the stairs as quickly as they could.
"Since you've given me no indication that you're going to leave on your own, Jackson, and since you've not taken my hints, I shall have to press upon my brother and His Lordship to ask you to do so." Lennie continued.
"Your fey brother and his nancy have already told me to leave the estate. And, yet, little woman, I remain. I don't take orders from them. They're not the masters here. This land only has a mistress. One. And, it isn't you."
"Oh?" Lennie laughed. "Is it the woman you kept in your pantry? That desiccated corpse that you carried back from America? She may make pantomime spirit appearances from time to time, Jackson, but she has no more power than moonlight. There's no authority in vapor. The law sides with flesh and blood."
"Your law, perhaps." Jackson replied.
Lennie smiled. "I've obviously interrupted you in some task. Have you come to gaze upon the leathery countenance of your beloved duchess? I don't mean to retard you in your errand. Carry on, if you wish. You'll find I'm not squeamish. I never knew the woman--though she gave me life. I have no sentimental attachment to her, so if you'd like to look upon your preserves, be my guest--open the crate in which she's been housed and look upon her. My maid and I shall wait her whilst the Duke and His Lordship are dispatched. It's best that you have something to occupy you before you begin answering our questions."
"Yes." Lennie nodded. "As to the whereabouts of my aunt, our cook's son and the footman called William."
"You think I have an answer to those questions?" Jackson replied.
"I know that you do." Lennie nodded. "Yet, I won't ask you to repeat yourself. You may save your lies or whatever it is that you'll tell us for when my brothers arrive. Until then, by all means, amuse yourself. Go ahead and look upon my mother's cured visage."
"I don't think I shall." Jackson shook his head.
"You won't offend us." Lennie continued.
Jackson stared at Lennie--stone-faced.
"In fact, Violet and I shall open the crate for you." Lennie stepped forward.
"Miss Lennie..." Violet whispered.
"Violet, I've never known you to be squeamish. The least we can do is help this decrepit creature take one last look at the husk of a woman he so worshipped."
"I don't think I should like to." Violet said softly.
"Listen to you maid, Lady Fallbridge." Jackson said cooly.
"Suddenly a gentleman?" Lennie scoffed.
"You'd only waste your strength." Jackson answered. "The case is empty."
"I figured as much." Lennie snapped. "Where have you taken the body?"
Jackson remained silent.
"Don't make me ask you again." Lennie warned.
"She isn't yours."
"Nor is she yours." Lennie growled. "Why are you in here, then?"
Jackson reached into his pocket and produced a glittering comb. "This must have dropped off when we carried her..." he trailed off.
"Cannot you accept that you've lost this battle, Jackson?" Lennie asked.
"It is you, M'Lady, who have lost." Jackson shook his head. "At least, you should have a consolation prize." He held out the comb. "Take this, then. It is rightfully yours, I think, as the only 'surviving' daughter."
Lennie held out her hand.
"Don't, Miss!" Violet called out.
However, it was too late. Jackson had already scratched the palm of Lennie's hand with the teeth of the comb.
"Your world, Lady Fallbridge, of late--it has been a fairy story. Has it not? Why shouldn't it end as one?" Jackson laughed.
Did you miss Chapters 1-86 of A Recipe for Punch? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 88.