Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Hildburgh Cupids Locket, 1880

Europe, 1880
Pearls, Gold and enamel plaque
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Nineteenth Century, cupids, flowers, hands, anchors, knots, musical instruments and nesting birds were all symbols of love.  So, it’s only natural that these symbols would be popular themes for the jewelry which was so frequently given as a token of affection.

This locket was made in Western Europe around 1880.  It’s a work of gold and pearls set with an enamel plaque showing happy putti enjoying what appears to be a nice picnic.  I don’t know, really, but that’s what I like to think because that sounds pleasant to me.  A pleasing turquoise enamel border surrounds the scene.  

Unusual Artifacts: The George Robey Toby, c. 1930

Toby Jug
Royal Doulton, 1930
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This earthenware Toby Jug features a bowler hat as a lid. This is among a popular line of Toby Jugs which was manufactured in the 1930s and based on music hall performers.  This example is modeled on George Robey (1869–1954), who is considered one of Britain’s most successful music hall comedians--a master of comic songs, caricatures and sketches, who became known as “the Prime Minister of Mirth.”

George Robey was known for his trademark stage appearance, a costume which is captured in this jug - a long collarless frock coat, a semi-clerical bowler hat, a walking stick and enormous black eyebrows which he raised quizzically to “great comic effect.”

This glazed earthenware jug  boasts a pale green handle and base, and depicts George Robey, dressed in his usual black suit, a white shirt and a red spotted handkerchief, and carrying a cane under his left arm. His nose is glazed in a reddish hue and he has his trademark crescent-shaped eyebrows. The plinth of the toby bears the incised inscription “GEORGE ROBEY” and the initials “AHCH.F.F.RA.”  It was made in Stoke-on-Trent, England by Royal Doulton.

And, yes, for the last twenty minutes I've been muttering "Robey Toby, Robey Toby, Robey Toby..."

The Home Beautiful: The Music Room from Norfolk House, St James's Square, London, 1748-56

Click images to enlarge.
The Music Room of Norfolk House
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I always like to see entire rooms from houses preserved in museums.  It’s also sort of jarring to see an interior from a private home set up in a public space.  How does it get there?  Why?  Typically, this happens when a structure is torn down or renovated and part of the interior warrants salvation from a historical or artistic salvation.  As a person who feels that the majority of old buildings deserve to be saved (and someone who lives in a very old house), seeing these rooms find new life in museums is very pleasing to me.

Here, we see the paneling and ceiling from the Music Room of Norfolk House, the London town house of the Dukes of Norfolk which was demolished in 1938.   The Music Room formed part of a group of state rooms on the mansion’s first floor.  These rooms included three drawing rooms and a state bedchamber.
The ceiling panels are decorated with trophies representing the Arts, and the grand wall panels are adorned with musical trophies, surmounted by heads of Apollo, the ancient Greek god of music.

Norfolk House was built on St. James Square between 1748 and 1752 by Matthew Brettingham (1699-1769), a Palladian architect.  The house was originally constructed for Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk (1686-1777).

According to the V&A, “Giovanni Battista Borra (1713-1770) designed the musical trophies: James Lovell (active 1752-1778) is thought to have executed those on the ceiling, as well as the chimney-piece, and Jean Antoine Cuenot (died 1763) is known to have carved those on the walls. The exuberant style of the Music Room would have catered for the francophile tastes of Duchess Mary.”

In 1938 the room was erected at the Victoria & Albert Museum without its window wall. The window wall, with its spectacular pier glasses between the windows, was recreated separately using surviving fragments and the evidence of old photographs.

At the Music Hall: Oh! Mr. Porter, 1893

Marie Lloyd
Lately I just spent a week with my old Aunt Brown,
Came up to see wond'rous sights of famous London Town.
Just a week I had of it, all round the place we'd roam
Wasn't I sorry on the day I had to go back home?
Worried about with packing, I arrived late at the station,
Dropped my hatbox in the mud, the things all fell about,
Got my ticket, said 'good - bye' "Right away." the guard did cry,
But I found the train was wrong and shouted out:

Oh! Mister Porter, what shall I do?
I want to go to Birmingham
And they're taking me on to Crewe,
Send me back to London as quickly as you can,
Oh! Mister Porter, what a silly girl I am!

The porter would not stop the train, But I laughed and said "You must
Keep your hair on, Mary Ann, and mind that you don't bust'."
Some old gentleman inside declared that it was hard,
Said "Look out of the window, Miss, and try and call the guard."
Didn't I, too, with all my might I nearly balanced over,
But my old friend grasp'd my leg, and pulled me back again,
Nearly fainting with the fright, I sank into his arms a sight,
Went into hysterics but I cried in vain:

Oh! Mister Porter, what shall I do?
I want to go to Birmingham
And they're taking me on to Crewe,
Send me back to London as quickly as you can,
Oh! Mister Porter, what a silly girl I am!

On his clean old shirt-front then I laid my trembling head,
"Do take it easy, rest awhile" the dear old chappie said.
If you make a fuss of me and on me do not frown,
You shall have my mansion, dear, away in London Town.
Wouldn't you think me silly if I said I could not like him?
Really he seemed a nice old boy, so I replied this way;
I will be your own for life, Your imay doodle um little wife,
If you'll never tease me any more I say.

Oh! Mister Porter, what shall I do?
I want to go to Birmingham
And they're taking me on to Crewe,
Send me back to London as quickly as you can,
Oh! Mister Porter, what a silly girl I am!

Oh! Mr Porter is an British music hall song, popularized by the great Marie Lloyd, about a girl "going too far.”  It was written in 1893  by George LeBrunn.

This song was so popular for so long that it, in part, inspired a film “Oh, Mr Porter.”  A portion of the song can be heard over this film’s opening credits.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 29

Chapter 29:
Any Such Control

Robert walked home—his mind racing with thoughts of Mr. Barrett’s situation.  He’d spent the entire day in the small, stuffy, but clean, suite of rooms which Ellen Barrett had hired for her youngest brother to share with the man she paid to look after him.  Robert had talked with the man, Scotty, for many hours and learned quite a lot about Mr. Barrett.  Robert scribbled page after page of notes and, when it was all over, told Scotty that while he had no new ideas about how to assist Mr. Barrett, he would give the matter serious thought.  Scotty seemed very relieved and confessed that he had long wished to leave the situation since he found Mr. Barrett most difficult at times.  However, Scotty confessed, knowing that he would have the support of Dr. Halifax and a man as important as the Duke of Fallbridge filled him with enough hope to allow him to remain at Mr. Barrett’s side.

This, at least, was something positive, Robert thought as he walked.  Yet, he wished he knew how to proceed.  Certainly he’d learned quite a lot from the time spent there that day, but it wasn’t enough.  Mr. Barrett—though overtaken by a similar state of mind to that of the Duke of Fallbridge—was quite a different case altogether.  Where Mr. Punch was always neatly in control of the various entities within the Duke’s body, Mr. Barrett had no persona who exhibited any such control.  Furthermore, while Mr. Punch’s humors where mostly quite steady, Mr. Barrett’s were, completely erratic.  There seemed to be no obvious pattern to the appearance of one entity over another nor were the events and thoughts which triggered these appearances given to any bit of sense or obviousness.

Robert shook his head as he walked.  He couldn’t wait to be home, to sit and rest with Mr. Punch, to feel the warmth of Colin on his lap and to pet the soft fur of Dog Toby.  Furthermore, he was quite hungry.  He refused to eat any of the meager food that Scotty had kept at Mr. Barrett’s hired rooms.  Their supplies were limited, and, in fact, Robert had promised to ask Mrs. Pepper to assemble a handsome hamper of assorted foods which he could bring on his next visit.

Ahead of Robert, Belgrave Square gleamed white and regal.  Night had begun to fall and candles, oil lamps and glimmering chandeliers could be seen twinkling through the tall windows of each home.  Footmen and maids would soon be closing the handsome drapes which surely hung on each of those windows.  The closer Robert got to the square, the more at ease he began to feel and he couldn’t help but smile when he pictured the cheerful smile of Mr. Punch, the soft, round cheeks of Colin and Dog Toby’s wagging tail.  Robert, indeed, even looked forward to the bemused twinkle in Speaight’s eye, the gentle muttering of Gamilla, the sly grin of Charles and the open, honest expression of Gerard. 

He’d never had a real home to which to return, Robert hadn’t.  As a boy, they had moved so frequently.  When he was very small, he and Cecil enjoyed living in a modest, but proud house in Wimbledon, but as their father’s debts grew, their residences grew smaller and sadder.  By the time he and Cecil were adolescents, they were living in a filthy room which they shared—for awhile, at least, with their poor mother.  While Cecil worked, Robert would do odd jobs—when not studying.  He could recall coming back to that room and dreading it.  Then, as a man, Robert put what little finds he had into his practice.  His home was clean, but nothing special and nothing comfortable—certainly not the kind of place for which a young man would yearn.  But, now, thanks to the Duke/Mr. Punch, he could return to a fine mansion filled with beautiful furnishings—soft, warm, elegant, wonderful furnishings.  And, still, the best thing of all was seeing Punch’s bright, loving eyes and broad grin, hearing his wild laughter and watching him bound about the house in that joyful manner that was entirely his own.  That was home and Robert loved it.

The challenges of the day began to melt away as, across Belgrave Square, Robert spotted No. 65.  Within lay all for which Robert had ever wished.  Someone to love, someone to love him—a child as well.  Robert pictured what must have been going on behind those tall, bright white walls.  Inside, for sure, Mr. Punch was seated somewhere with Colin and Dog Toby.  Perhaps the child was cuddled up next to the terrier while Punch sat with his sketchpad and pencils—working on the drawings of the jewels which Prince Albert had commissioned.  Speaight would be decanting the wine in his pantry while Mrs. Pepper stirred her giant pots, content yet complaining.  Violet would be setting the table in the servants’ hall so that after upstairs dinner, they could enjoy their own lovely meal.  Jenny would be flitting around, trying to respond to each of Mrs. Pepper’s barks while, forever unseen, Ether would be humming as she scrubbed in the scullery.  Gerard and Gamilla would have been lighting lamps and flirting with each other in their own private way while Charles worried over the placement of the silver on the long, shining dining room table.  Perhaps Tom would be lighting the grates or snatching the boots which needed blacking.  Ellen would be upstairs, folding blankets in the nursery or picking up the many toys which Punch and Colin had pulled down throughout the day.  Just then, Robert imagined, Punch would look up at the repeating French framed clock in the library, where he liked to sit at that time of the day, and wonder where his “chum” was.

Robert’s pace quickened.  He could almost taste Mrs. Pepper’s dinner.  He could almost feel Punch’s strong, think fingers rubbing the day from his shoulders.  He could almost smell the sweet scent of Colin’s fine auburn hair as the child drifted off to sleep.  Yes, he could almost feel Dog Toby butting his head into his shins in welcome and the gentle slap of the terrier’s tail wagging in sheer delight to see his other master.

Suddenly, nothing else mattered than setting foot into that house—his first true home.

“Robert!” A familiar voice called from across the square.

Robert tired to ignore it.  Surely, it wasn’t meant for him.  Who there would call him anything other than “Dr. Halifax?”  Even Punch rarely referred to him by his given name.  Usually Robert’s companion called him “Chum” or “Doctor Chum” or…other more affectionate things, and even when Punch did refer to him by his first name it was usually, “My Robert.”

“Robert Halifax!” The voice repeated.

Robert shook his head.  He knew who was calling and he was resolute to appear to have not heard.  No. 65 was so close, he could almost smell the lovely roast that Mrs. Pepper was preparing for upstairs dinner.

“Come on, then!” the voice shouted.  “I know you hear me!”

Robert grunted and paused to turn around.  There, behind the wrought iron fence of the square’s central garden, sat William Stover, on a low stone bench.

“How ever did you manage to gain entrance?”  Robert shook his head.

“Kind old lady let me in when I said I knew Dr. Halifax..” William smiled.  “I told her I wanted to study some of these handsome sculptures.”  William stood up and joined Robert on the street side of the garden.  “You’re looking very well.”

“Thank you, Mr. Stover.”

“It’s come to this, then?” William chuckled.  “Mr. Stover, am I?  I suppose I should call you ‘Dr. Halifax,’ then?”

“I think so, yes.” Robert nodded.

William looked at the ground.  “This isn’t quite the reunion I was imagining.”

“What did you expect, Mr. Stover?”

“I thought, perhaps, you’d be somewhat glad to see me.”

Robert frowned.  “I’m not displeased.  I’m not pleased.  To be honest, Mr. Stover, my only thought is that I wish to go home.”

“And a fine home it is.  You’ve done well for yourself.” William smirked.

“Why are you here, Mr. Stover?” Robert interrupted.

“Why do you think?”

“You weren’t able to see me yesterday.  Now, you have.  You’ve seen me.  So, you can go now.”

“Steady on.”  William smiled.  “I took quite a bit of time to see you and I aim to talk.  Sure, this isn’t my first try.  I did come yesterday and failed.  I wasn’t able to see you today, either,” William winked. 

“You just have.”

“I meant when I visited earlier.”

“Pardon me?”

William walked closer.  “I went to your house earlier.  Number six-five behind them fine pillars right over there.”

“I wasn’t home.”

“I know.” William chuckled.  “However, the Duke was ever so kind to speak with me.”

“You spoke with His Grace?” Robert’s eyes flickered with anger.

“Certainly.  Since you weren’t there, I asked that good lookin’ footman with the Italian eyes if I could see the master of the house.  He was very charming to me.  I mean the master was.   And, he’s quite a treat to look at—your Duke.  Like I said, you’ve done well for yourself.  You always wanted to live like a gentleman, and now you can.  What’s more, he’s one of the wealthiest men in England, your Duke—and nice lookin’.  Good for you, Dr. Halifax.”

“If the Duke of Fallbridge was destitute and ugly, I’d still stay by his side.”

“Sure you would, Robbie.” William winked.

“I don’t like what you’re implying.” Robert growled.

“My apologies, Sir.”  William bowed his head.

“Now, you listen to me, Mr. Stover.  I made my position very clear months ago.  I wish to have nothing more to do with you.  It’s nothing personal.  I just don’t think that we have similar values.  So, I’ll thank you to stay away.  I told you all of this before I left for America—many weeks before, and then, again, in a letter.”

“And on the way you found a Duke.”

“He wasn’t a Duke when we met.”

“But, he was a Lord, wasn’t he?”

“Yes.” Robert answered.  “You’re avoiding the truth, Mr. Stover.  Even if I’d never met the Duke of Fallbridge, I’d still not wish to keep company with you.”

“And, why is that?”

“You know very well why.”

“Is it because I come from dirt?”

“Your family has nothing to do with it.  I have nothing against your sister.  Dora, is it?”

“Eudora.  And, you know she’s a slut, Dr. Halifax.  I know you never approved of her though you put on quite a show of being kind to her and her five bastards.  There’s five now, you know.”

“Mr. Stover…”

“Or is it because our pa is in prison?”

“Mr. Stover, the problem is and always was you.  You’re a very intelligent and interesting man, but you…”  Robert shook his head.  “I don’t wish to go into all of this again.  I told you many months ago that I didn’t wish to see you again.  I meant it then and I mean it now.”

“Especially now that you got a fine home, a big staff downstairs and a handsome, wealthy peer to keep you.  Oh, and a child…  You always spoke of wantin’ a child.  Where’d you two get that, huh?  I guess if you got money, anything is possible.  If I’d known you’d wanted a kid, I could have gotten one for you.  I’m sure my sister wouldn’t miss one of her brats.”

Robert frowned.  “Isn’t it enough that I’m happy?  If you care for me as much as you’ve claimed to in the past, surely you can see that I’m happy and, frankly, be glad for it.  I wish you well.  I truly do.  And, I know that there’s happiness out there for you.  You have many opportunities with your business and you’re not an unkind person.  If you simply were to live your own life without trying to bend people into something they’re not, you’d be able to realize how much you already have.”

“Easy for you to say when you’ve gotten all you ever wanted.”

“What do you want of me?”  Robert snapped.

“A kind word.”

“That’s the trouble, William.  If I give you one kind word, it’s never enough.  You always want more.  You’re a bottomless pail.  I refuse to get lost in it.”

“I just wanted to see you once more,” William squinted.

“And, so you have.” Robert sighed.  “Now, I’m telling you.  Do not come to my home again.  Do not contact me again—me, nor the Duke nor anyone in our household.  Don’t even come to Belgrave Square.  There’s nothing for you here.”

“What you mean to say is that the likes of me doesn’t belong in a place like this.”

“You belong anywhere you aspire to be.  Just not with me.  Nor even near me.”  Robert said firmly.  “Now, good evening, Mr. Stover.”

“Good evening, Dr. Halifax.” William muttered.

As Robert walked off, William watched and muttered.  “You had a chance, Robbie, you did.  I gave you a chance.  All I wanted was a kind word.  If only you’d just given me a kind word.”
Charles opened the door before Robert even rang.

“Saw you coming, Sir.” Charles smiled.  “I was just passing by the window.  Are you well?”
“Now that I’m home, I’m quite well.” Robert nodded.

“I couldn’t help but notice that gentleman bothering you, Sir.  You know he came here today and spoke to his Grace? I knew him right off when I spotted him in the square.  He’s been there for about two hours, Sir.”

“I know.” Robert grumbled.  “He will not return.”

“However, should he come back, Sir…”

“Send him away.”  Robert replied plainly.  “Send him away and tell me immediately, please.”

“Yes, Sir.” Charles smiled.

“Now, Charles, I wish to relax.  How is the household?”

“Quite well, Sir.  I was just about to ring the dressing gong.”

“So, I’m just in time.” Robert began to cheer up.

“Yes, Sir.” Charles nodded.  “His Grace is in library with Dog Toby working on his sketches and Master Colin has had his dinner and Miss Ellen is giving him his bath.”

“Excellent.” Robert grinned. “Is that roast that I smell?”

“It is.” Charles smiled.  “With lovely whipped potatoes just the way you like.  And kidney sauce—for you only, Sir, since His Grace doesn’t care for it.”

“Brilliant.”  Robert sighed happily.

“I shall ring the gong, Sir.” Charles replied.

“I just want to pop in to see His Grace before…”

But, before Robert could finish his sentence, from the floor above, Robert heard the jubilant voice of his companion.  “Chum!”  Punch called over the banister.  “You’re home!”

Punch hurried down the stairs.  “I been waitin’ for ya.” He looked around to see that only Charles was listening.  “I been waitin’ hours.  But, now, you’re home, my chum.”

“I am, dear Punch.” Robert smiled as Charles rang the dressing gong.  “I am.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-28?  If so, you can read them hereCome back on Monday for Chapter 30 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Drawing of the Day: The Immobile One, 1905

Caricature of Sam Mayo
George Cooke, 1905
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s another of the series of Edwardian music hall, theatrical and variety caricatures drawn and saved by George Cooke.  This caricature is of Sam Mayo, who was known as  “The Immobile One,” when he was performing at the Grand Theatre of Varieties in Hanley, during the week of May 29 1905.

Mayo was billed as “the Original Immobile Comedian” and grew popular with the song “I Never Stopped Running Till I Got Home.”  When he was at Hanley in May of 1905, the theatre held a competition to find the person who could most accurately imitate him his unusual style.  At the time, music hall performers liked to cultivate specialties which would set them apart.  Mayo  Mayo specialized in standing eerily still on stage, often with his hands between his knees while he sang.  That sounds fun. He was also known for singing at a piano wearing an old dressing gown, a motoring cap, a yellow wig and a trademark lugubrious expression.  Also fun!

The caricature is signed by Mayo, presumably to the artist, “Would that I had such teeth. Good luck Sam Mayo.”  Would that you did, Sammy, would that you did.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Tragedy at the Colosseum Music-Hall, 1878

The Fatal Panic and Crush at the Colosseum Music-Hall, Liverpool in 1878
Sir Luke Fildes, 1878
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This print shows an illustration of the fatal panic and crush at the Colosseum Music-Hall, Liverpool in 1878.   It was published by The Illustrated London News in the same year.  Sir Luke Fildes, (KB, KCVO, RA, born 1844 - died 1927) served as the illustrator. 

The Colosseum Music Hall in Liverpool had been converted around 1850 from an octagonal-shaped Unitarian Chapel which had been built in 1791.  The structure was heavily altered to accommodate two auditoria, one for variety acts and one for straight theater.  The alterations to the building had been made poorly and hastily and, on October 11, 1878, part of the ceiling fell—crushing 37 people and injuring many others in the ensuring panic.

By 1879, the theatre—which had been closed since the tragedy—reopened after having undergone extensive repair and renovation.  Gone were the two auditoria—replaced with one which could hold 3000 people.  Sadly, the tragedy tainted the theatre and the new incarnation of the venue failed, closing and reopening again in 1880 as the Star Music Hall.  Since that time, the theatre has undergone many changes and been called by many different names.  By 1916 it had become a warehouse.  The structure was bombed during the Second World War and was, then, subsequently demolished.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mastery of Design: The May Morris Ruby Ring, 1900

May Morris, 1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum

May Morris (1862-1938) , the daughter of designer and Socialist William Morris and his wife Janey Morris, was an excellent designer in her own right and created several pieces of exceptional jewelry.  Here, we see one of her works—a gold ring set with a ruby.  Made, obviously, in England, the ring dates to about 1900.

Painting of the Day: Kate E. Gough's Punch and Judy Booth, 1870

1870 photograph, hand-colored, of an antique painting
Kate E. Gough
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here, we see a photograph of an original painting. 

The photo dates to 1870 and has been hand-colored. Kate E. Gough photographed this antique painting of a Punch and Judy fit-up which was created sometime before 1870 by a now unknown artist.

Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week:

This week, for a lark, Mr. Punch and I sat down to come up with a riddle all our own.  So, this one isn’t a riddle which has been preserved since the Nineteenth Century, but it is certainly in the same spirit. 

Let’s take a stab at it, shall we?  As always, the first person to put the “right” answer in the columns will receive “public congratulations” on this page.  In the meantime, we all enjoy this little Friday feature, so, let’s go…

What did the old length of tied rope say when it was asked to dance?

Public congratulations to Matt who posted the correct answer!  Good for you!  Well, I guess it's good.  It just means, really, that we share a similarly corny sense of humor.  And, thanks to all who posted.  I really enjoy your funny answers.

The answer was...

He said, "I'm a frayed knot!"  (afraid not)

Meanwhile, I’d like to invite you to visit our online store to look at, among other things, our special line of Punch-inspired fashions and gifts.

History's Runway: Christmas and New Year's Party Fashion Plate, 1875

Fashion Plate
The Young Ladies' Journal, 1875
Drawn in France
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Fashion plates such as this one often formed the centerpiece of publications for women—rather, they still do.  This landscape format plate from 1875 is set in a ballroom draped with garlands, and depicts twelve women and 8 small children.  Nine of the women are in party dresses with one small boy in a brown suit.

Two women in the background wear the long-sleeved day dresses which were fashionable at the time, and a third woman wears a formal reception gown with elbow-length sleeves. The others, in their party dresses, show the elaborately bustled and embellished evening gowns with low necklines and short sleeves that dominated the fashions of the 1870s.

One female child in the centre foreground holds a fashionably dressed doll, and another to the far left holds a doll dressed as a Polichinelle (the French version of Mr. Punch).

While the artwork was created in Paris, the piece was published in London, in December 1875, in “The Young Ladies' Journal.”  A descriptive line states:  “Christmas and New Year's Party Fashion Plate December 1875. The Young Ladies' Journal.”

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 28

Chapter 28:
A Lovely Chat

Gamilla knocked softly on the door to Miss Barrett’s small, but pretty, bedroom off of the night nursery.  Ellen rolled over in her bed and mumbled, “Enter.”

Gamilla opened the door and, then, picked up the silver tray she had carried from downstairs.  The smell of the food on the tray, at once, nauseated Ellen and made her hungry.  She shuddered slightly.

“Oh, Miss,” Gamilla sighed.  “You’re still dressed.”

“I am,” Ellen smiled weakly.  “I was too tired to undress.”

“You shoulda rung for me, Miss.”  Gamilla said softly.  “I’d a come to help ya.”

“At two o’clock this morning?”  Ellen shook her head as she sat up.  “Gamilla, you’re allotted so little sleep as it is.”

“But, them stays have gotta be pinchin’ ya.”

“No more than usual.” Ellen smiled.  “Gamilla, thank you for bringing up that beautiful tray, but...”

“You gotta eat somethin’.” Gamilla interrupted.  “And, that’s not comin’ from me.  It’s comin’ from His Grace.  He asked Mrs. Pepper to make up a special tray for you.”

“I’m sure she was thrilled.”  Ellen sighed sarcastically.  “She’s here to feed the men of the house and, then, downstairs—and on schedule, too.  Not to make up trays for the sad governess.”

“Ain’t true,”  Gamilla shook her head and smiled.  “Mrs. Pepper was happy to do it.  Fact, she done tol’ me that she’s prayin’ for ya and whatever troubles your family done got.  See, Mr. Speaight—he didn’t say nothin’ but someone in your family was doin’ poorly and that you was takin’ care of him.  And, sure, neither Charles nor Gerard ain’t gonna say no more ‘bout it.  Mrs. Pepper—she meant it.  She’s prayin’ hard and we all is.  So, you eat up.  Ya hear?”

“I hear.”  Ellen smiled.  “Everyone has been so kind to me here.  I’m not sure what to make of it.  I’m really not accustomed to such good treatment.”

“Well, you better get used to it, Miss.”

“That reminds me,” Ellen’s eyes widened happily.  “Those are for you.”  She pointed to a small, painted porcelain vase of fresh white roses and greenery which sat on the small table by her bed.”

“For me?”

“Certainly.”  Ellen nodded.  “I promised you that, on my day off, I would bring you some roses.  Well, here they are.  The vase is for you, too.  I thought you’d like it.  It’s rather pretty, I think—nothing special, but pretty.”

Gamilla’s eyes filled with appreciative tears.  “With all your troubles, you done thought ‘nough of me to take the time to do this?”

“I did make a promise, Gamilla.”  Ellen said modestly.  “And, really, it was no trouble.  I already had the vase and as I made my way back to Belgrave Square, I happened upon a flower girl who was setting up her barrow.  She looked so sad.  I paused to talk with her and we had a lovely chat.  Well, there you are…”

“Thank you so much, Miss.”  Gamilla replied emotionally.

“Well, it is I who should thank you.  You’ve been so kind to me, and, well, I can never repay you for picking up my duties yesterday while I tended to my…my situation.”

“Ain’t nothin’.”  Gamilla shook her head.

“It certainly is.”  Ellen waved her hand.

“Now, Miss, you gotta eat.  Let me bring you the tray.”  Gamilla hurried to the bureau upon which she’d set the tray and carried it to Miss Barrett.

Mrs. Pepper had, in fact, created a lovely spread for Ellen—freshly-baked bread, assorted cheeses, strawberries, cold meats, butter and jam as well as a lovely, little pot of tea.

Ellen eyed the tray.  “Have you ever been sick to your stomach and hungry at the same time?”

“Yes, Miss.”  Gamilla nodded, counting on her fingers.  “Many times.  When me and my kin was brought to America.  When my sister was sick.  When His Grace was havin’ dem troubles with folk who wanted to hurt him.  When Dr. Halifax had a terrible fever once while we was in Marionneaux.  When my friend Meridian was poisoned.  When Gerard got himself beaten by some bad folks…”

“You care very much about your friends.”  Ellen smiled gently. 

“I do, Miss.  They’re all I got now.  Lost my mama when I was born.  My papa died on the ship from Africa.”  She paused to swallow.  “Them men was awful to him.  My brother was shot in Louisiana.  The master thought he was stealin’, but he wasn’t.  I thought everything was finally better when Dr. Halifax’s brother bought me to work on his place.  But, then, my sister…she got the Yellow Fever. And…”  She shook her head.  “Aw, but you don’t need to hear ‘bout my troubles.”

“I’m sorry you’ve had any troubles at all, Gamilla.  I truly am.  Neither you  nor your family deserved any of those terrible things.  But, I don’t mind hearing about them.  If I can offer you some comfort, I’d like to.  I know that—just in being yourself—you’ve been such a comfort to me.  I’m so glad to call you my friend.”

“It’s my pleasure, Miss.”  Gamilla nodded.  “Can I ask ya?  How is your brother?”

“The duke managed to calm him down.  It was a herculean task, too, I might add.  I have such respect for His Grace.  He was masterful.  He and Dr. Halifax helped me bring Roger back to the rooms where he lives with his hired companion.  And, they stayed, Gamilla.  They stayed for many hours to talk with him and soothe him.  I will forever be in their debt.”

“They’re fine gentlemen, Miss.  Ain’t no others like them.  To be true, Miss, in all the world no two folk never loved each other as much as Mr. Pun…errr…like His Grace and Dr. Halifax do.  And, that love they got for one another somehow makes them love everyone else all the better.”

“I think that’s very true.”  Ellen nodded, taking a bite from one of the wedges of cheese which Mrs. Pepper had so neatly arranged on a bright china plate.  “Dr. Halifax is with Roger’s hired companion right now, talking about the best ways to care for him.”  Ellen’s eyes flashed.  “Oh, dear!  What time is it?”

“Near tea, Miss.”  Gamilla smiled.

“I’ve been sleeping all this time?”  Ellen yelped nervously.  “Oh,  dear!”

“Now, you just settle yourself down, Miss.  Everyone in this house wants you to get the sleep you need.”

“But, Colin!  He’s…”

“He’s with his pappy down in the library.  And, they’re having a fine time, too!  Last I saw they was on the floor and His Grace was tracing the lines of Colin’s little hands on paper.  Jus’ sittin’ there on the floor wit’ Dog Toby.  They’s havin’ a grand time.  So, you just eat your supper and, then, you take a nice bath and change your clothes.  I’ll help ya.  I done all my duties for the day.”

“But, surely, when Dr. Halifax returns he’ll want to take tea with His Grace.  I’ll need to take Colin to the nursery and…”

“Now, Miss.  Ain’t my place, but the Duke himself said for you to eat and rest.  He’s got Colin and they’re pleased as…well…pleased as Punch.”

Ellen chuckled loudly.  “Bless them…”

Gamilla tapped the tray with her finger.  “I ain’t bringin’ no empty dishes down to Mrs. Pepper, so you gotta eat all that.  Meanwhile, I’ll get a bath goin’ for ya.”

Ellen sighed.  “Thank you so much.”

“Ain’t nothin’,” Gamilla nodded.

Ellen looked up to the ceiling of her comfortable room.

“You all right, Miss?”  Gamilla asked, noticing.  “You stiff from sleepin’ in your corset?”

“Well, yes.”  Ellen giggled.  “But, I was just asking God to protect the people in this house.  May nothing ever happen to upset the joy here.”

“Nothin’ ever could, Miss.”  Gamilla shook her head.  “Not one thing.”

Meanwhile, quite a way from the luxury of Belgrave Square, William Stover knocked on the grubby door of a sooty, brown, battered, narrow, mean row house.

A chubby woman with thinning blonde hair answered the door.  The lines on her face belied her youth.  On her hip, she carried a sticky infant with a distended belly and ruddy cheeks.

“Well?”  The woman growled at William.

“As charming as always, Eudora.” William sighed as he entered the house, nearly gagging on the smell within.

“I don’t gotta be charmin’ to ya, Willy.”

“You could smile for your brother.”

“Willy—ain’t no woman’s smile gonna do nothin’ for ya.”  Eudora cackled.  “So, did ya see your ol’ friend?”  She winked.

“No, Eudora.  He was not in.”  William scowled.

“Then, did ya see the loon?”

“He doesn’t seem like a lunatic.”  William shrugged.  “He’s a very articulate…”


“He’s well-spoken, ‘Dora.”  William snorted.

“What’s he look like, then?  Wild-eyed with a shock of wiry hair?”

“No.  He’s quite handsome.  In fact, he’s terribly handsome.”

“Course he is!  See, then?  All that Fallbridge gold!  Course he looks handsome.  If I had that money, I’d be as pretty as a picture, me-self.  So, he saw ya, then?”

“He did.”

“What’d he say?”

“He was very kind.”

“Them kind always is to a gent.”

“Shut your gob, Eudora.”

“So…he didn’t do nothin’ barmy?”

“Not at all.  He welcomed me into his home and we spoke of Dr. Halifax.”

“She says he looks all nice and sane, but he’s really a wild man.”

“I saw no sign of it.”

“You will!”

“No, Eudora, I won’t.  She’s your friend, not mine.  I have no quarrel with the Duke of Fallbridge.”

“Don’t ya?  Took your…friend…from ya.  Ya dirty little pig.”

William frowned at his sister.

“Oh, now you’re high and mighty.  Well, if you heard some of the things what Hortence told me, you’d be laughin’ outta the other side of your face!”

“I want nothing to do with your friend’s scheme.  Dr. Halifax was once my friend.  He’s happy in that grand house with the Duke.  And, why shouldn’t he be?”

“He rejected ya, didn’t he?”

“That’s no reason for the man to suffer.”

“All men should suffer.”  Eudora growled.

“I wish you’d never told Hortence that I knew Dr. Halifax.”

“Do ya, then?  How could I not?  When my dear friend came cryin’ to me about the awful way she was treated by that man…well, how could I keep it from her?  I didn’t know that the doctor in the Duke’s house was the same bloke what broke me baby brother’s heart ‘til she said his name.  Only ever called him ‘the doctor’ them other times what I seen her while she were there.  How was I to know?  Well, when I learned it, Willy, I had to tell her what I knew.  And, brother dear, if you heard the things she tol’ me, you wouldn’t be so quick to protect neither o’ those men.  The things that go on in that house!  Hortence says she saw…”

“Do you know what I saw, Eudora?  I saw a kind, wealthy man with an elegant home who clearly has nothing but affection in his heart.  From what I saw, he loves his companion and his son and has respect for the household staff.  Your friend Hortence is nothin’ but a whining liar.  And lazy and cruel, too. You know it to be true!  She’s always been a hag, that one.  I don’t know why you bother with her other than the fact that she nicks wine for you from her masters’ homes.  Wine and the occasional spoon.”

“Like them rich folk ever miss it!”  Eudora snapped.  “Them’s what’s got oughta give to us what don’t.”

“If you could stay off of your back for a few minutes, you’d have a lot more than you do!”  William snapped.

“Willy!  You break my heart!  Your own sister’s heart.”

“Good.”  William grumbled.  “I did what you asked.  And, I’m grateful for it.  Now I know that Robert is in a happy home.  Sure, I was envious and jealous when I read ‘bout him in the news and when I heard those rumors.  And, sure, when you told me that your beloved Hortence had worked in that fine house, I was curious.  But, what I saw was a good, joyful place lorded over by a gentleman.  He didn’t have to speak with me!  He knew I was once a friend of his companion.  Any other man would have been cruel to me or sent me away.  But, this one, though he didn’t want to talk with me—I could see it—he was kind and polite.  If Robert is happy, I think we should let him be.  Besides, this isn’t the first time your Hortence has been sacked for being a bleeding cow.  Each time she is, she does this!  She cries and threatens.  Yet, she never gets any further than she ever is.”

“This time she will.”  Eudora sniffed.  “Do you hear me?  That man—the handsome Duke—is a loony and we all know it.  All of London knows it!  And, my Hortence is gonna finally get what she’s owed.  We’re gonna see to it, and you’re gonna help us.  So help me God, you’re gonna help us!  I see all them fine folk what’s got theirs.  Where’s mine, then?  When do I get mine?  Oh. You’re gonna help me get mine, Willy.  Me and Hortence, too!  You owe me this!”

“Why?  How do I owe you?”

“It were your mate what gave me this child!”  Eudora smirked, hiking the infant on her hip.   “Had I not met him at your place, I’d not be in this mess.”

“What about the other four children?”

“Them’s me own business.”  Eudora muttered.

“Even if it were my responsibility, I owe nothing to Hortence.”

“Don’t ya?”


“You promised her a job, you did!  One that would get her out of service and into her own home!  She coulda been a lady.”

“No job would make that bitch a lady!”

“You watch your tongue, you little…” Eudora snapped.

“I gave Hortence a job at the factory and she lasted less than one day.  In five hours she managed to break three times more figures than she was able to paint.  If she failed it was her own fault, not mine!”

“You never gave her proper trainin’. You never showed her what to do!”

“A trained monkey could have painted the rims of those figures without breaking as many as she did!”

“You lie.  You’re a liar, Willy.  Always were!  Now, you help us!”

“You would really do this?  You would wish to ruin a man who always showed you kindness?  When Dr. Halifax and I were acquainted, he came here many times to help you without charge.  He was kind to you and your bastard children.”

Eudora gasped.  “Fine way to speak of your nephews and nieces!  And your precious doctor didn’t give us no better treatment than a farmer would give a mule.”

“How fitting!”  William laughed.

“You hold your tongue!”  Eudora spat.

“Fine.”  William scoffed.  “I’ll hold my tongue as I leave.  Good evening, sister dear.”

“Stop right there, Willy.”  Eudora warned.


“Cuz if you don’t do what I say, I’m gonna go see pa.”

Will they let you visit him in gaol?”

“Oh, they will.”  Eudora smirked.  “And, when I see him, I’ll tell him his only son is a…”

“What good would that do?”

“Wouldn’t do no good.”  Eudora laughed.  “But, when pa finds out and he gets out of that prison—and he will—he’ll make sure to bathe in your blood.  You know he will.  He won’t want no son of his livin’ the way you do.  You’re a sinner.  Our pa ain’t gonna want to know that his only boy is a sinner!  And, when he does, you’ll die for your sins, you filthy beast!”

William’s ruddy face went pale.

“That’s right, Willy.  Now, what do you say?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-27 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 29.