Tuesday, June 17, 2014
A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 119
As Robert stalked the grounds in search of Punch, Charles and Matthew, he couldn't help, but thing that he should have been more vocal in his protests against Punch (and the others) going off on their own. Now, Morgana was back, and while her captors were still at large, at wast the main objective had been met--they'd gotten their auntie back. There was no reason for Punch (and the other two men, Robert figured) to be out there on their own.
Punch would be overjoyed by this, Robert thought. Of course, that joy would quickly fade when he learned of Lennie's rash suicide attempt.
Robert sighed, silently castigating himself. He should have insisted that Punch remain at the Hall with him. Now he was out where he was a clear target for those who wished to do them harm.
Shaking his head, Robert muttered. "Always wishing to save everyone, dear Punch."
His mind wandered to another day, almost two years before during their trip to America, when he and Punch had disagreed about the best way to help someone dear to them. Punch's footman, Naasir, had volunteered himself as a sacrifice in order to spare Punch the wrath of a murderous woman--Iolanthe Evangeline, the woman who had killed Punch's mother. Punch had been adamant that he would stop Naasir from essentially giving himself over to be killed, and, Robert was of the mind that Naasir could not be stopped.
Robert could hear their conversation again as if he were living it all over.
“Do you remember what I told you on the ship?” Robert had said slowly.
“You said a lot of things on the ship,” Mr. Punch smiled. “Some of them I wasn’t ‘round for, some of ‘em, I was. Can’t ‘xpect me to remember all of ‘em.”
“When we met?” Robert responded patiently. “When we met again on the ship?”
“Said that you understood me.” Mr. Punch had answered, his smile fading. “Said you knew me.”
“What am I to you, Mr. Punch?” Robert asked, his eyes growing moist.
“You’re me chum.” Mr. Punch whispered.
“I’m your champion.” Robert said, swallowing hard. “Now, listen to me, dear Punch. For whatever reason—and, I don’t wholly understand it myself—I’ve decided that above all else, your safety is my priority. I’ve sworn to you—I’ve sworn my loyalty. I’m here to protect you, and I hope to…I hope…oh, I don’t know. I hope we’re around each other for many years to come—all three of us, Julian, you and me. And, all of the things that go with it—Toby and your puppet and our family.”
“In me master’s house in Belgravia…walkin’ to Covent Garden to see the other Mr. Punchs and eatin’ Turkish Delight from a paper cone.” Mr. Punch mumbled.
“All of that, Mr. Punch.” Robert said sternly. “Now, do you seriously think that I’m going to let you offer yourself to Iolanthe Evangeline in exchange for Naasir?”
Returning to his present, Robert inhaled lungs full of the cold damp air, and shook his head so as to dislodge the memory.
"I haven't kept my word," Robert mumbled as his pace quickened. "I swore to him that his safety is my priority. How could I have let him go off with Charles and that idiot Matthew?"
The sickly, weak feeling of guilt bubbled up in Robert's stomach, and he felt as though he might vomit.
The feeling abated, however, when Robert spotted three figures walking ahead. He spot at once, even from a distance, that one of them was Charles, tall and lean in his livery. One of the others was Matthew--a blurry shape of twead. Surely, the third, the one dressed in dark green, was Punch.
As Robert ran toward them, he tried to remember if Punch had been wearing his dark green breeches and coat that day. Robert could have sworn that his companion had been attired in a rusty hue, a russet which looked quite handsome with Punch's dark auburn hair.
Robert squinted ahead. Was the third man's hair...was it auburn?
"Your Lordship!" Charles called out as he spotted Robert running toward them.
"Where's His Grace?" Robert panted.
"I say, Robert," Matthew began.
"Where is Punch?" Robert barked as he reached them, grabbing Matthew by the shoulders.
"Come now, we'll explain everything." Matthew sputtered.
"Tell me now!" Robert shouted.
"Lost, Sir." Charles gulped.
"How?" Robert screamed.
The men were silent.
"Answer me!" Robert demanded.
The third man spoke up. "Lord Colinshire, I saw His Grace fall into the hands of Mr. Causer and Mr. Hargrave."
"And you all did nothing to stop it?" Matthew bellowed.
"We tried," Charles began.
Robert turned back to the stranger. "Who are you?"
"I'm one of the grooms, Sir. Eli is what I'm called. I were at the stables when..."
"Robert, we'd gone to get some horses, thinking that we could cover more ground if we were not on foot." Matthew explained. "Punch had gone off on his own for a moment to relieve himself."
"That's when I saw Mr. Hargrave grab him. He and Mr. Causer." Eli added. "I dried to give chase, but, they'd got 'im on a cart and pulled a burlap bag over 'is poor head. Oh, he fought, His Grace did. But, they beat 'im."
Robert balled his hands into fists. "What direction did they take?"
"This way," Charles answered.
He looked to Eli, "Go back and ready some horses for us, please."
Eli nodded. "I will, Sir, only where you're goin', a horse ain't gonna go."
Did you miss Chapters 1-118 of A Recipe for Punch? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 120.