It’s the Yellow Fever, isn’t it?” Cecil asked Dr. DeCuir.
“No.” The doctor shook his head.
Adrienne sighed with relief.
“No signs of ‘Yellow Jack,’” Dr. DeCuir continued. “No traces of blood around the eyes and mouth and his abdomen seems unaffected. No, this is respiratory. Now, he’s got a very severe infection, I’ll say that, and he does have fluid in his lungs. I’d guess this is the result of an infection from some internal injury.”
“We were poisoned.” Julian said as he covered Robert’s shivering body with a blanket. “Could that have caused some sort of internal damage which became infected?”
“Could have.” The physician nodded.
“When will he recover?” Adrienne asked.
“Hard to say. He may not. He’s a pretty sick man. He needs to be looked after at all times. You’ve got to keep his air passages clear. Make sure he gets nourishment, but nothing heavy—broths and grits.”
Julian raised an eyebrow.
“Gruel.” The physician chuckled. “As you might say.”
“Ah.” Julian nodded.
“We’d like to take him home.” Cecil said.
“No. I’d not suggest moving him. Not in this cold weather. Can’t risk him catching a further chill.”
“Well, he can’t stay here.” Cecil thundered. “Not with Carling and Fane Rittenhouse. She’d never stand for it.”
“Going to have to.” The doctor grunted. “I’ll let you know when and if he can be moved.”
Julian sighed, sitting on the edge of Robert’s bed. He took the man’s hand in his own. Robert’s eyes widened at the unusual display of physical affection.
“Told you…” Robert rasped. “Told you I didn’t have the fever.”
Julian smiled. “To be fair, dear Robert, you didn’t tell me anything. I’ve only just arrived.”
Robert’s eyes laughed. The sparkle didn’t last long, however, as his body was soon gripped in another spasm of coughing.
“We’d best go tell Mrs. Rittenhouse that she’s going to have to be inconvenienced for awhile.” Cecil grumbled.
“I’d better do it,” Adrienne volunteered. “I don’t think she cares much for you.”
“She doesn’t care much for any man.” Cecil muttered.
“I’ll return in a moment.” Adrienne said.
Dr. DeCuir turned to Marjani. “Girl,” He grunted, “You work here?”
“No.” Marjani replied. “Sir, I work over ta Mr. Fontanals’ place. See, he lets me help out with the nursin’ of folk when they needs it.”
“Well, we need it now.” Dr. DeCuir said sharply.
“I’ll stop there on my way down la Colline Cramoisie and tell the overseer not to expect you back for a few days.”
“Yes, Sir.” Marjani nodded. She turned her back to him and smiled at Julian. She mouthed, “See, I’ll look after ya.”
Julian took a deep breath. “I suppose Mrs. Rittenhouse should prepare herself for another unwanted houseguest.”
“Lord Fallbridge?” Cecil squinted.
“Well, Cecil, I can’t very well leave your brother here. I shall stay with him.”
“Do you think that’s wise?” Cecil asked.
“He really should.” Dr. DeCuir said. “Your brother needs someone here with him besides that, ‘nurse.’ We can’t trust those people.”
“’Those’ people are a sight more trustworthy than most of the land owning people in this town, Dr. DeCuir.” Cecil frowned.
“I shall take my leave, then.” Dr. DeCuir grumbled. “If you need me, send for me.”
With that, the man left the room.
“Trash.” Marjani muttered after the man left.
“I agree.” Cecil smiled at her.
“You want me to leave you alone with these men, Sir?” Marjani asked.
“No. That’s not necessary. You seem to be fully aware of our situation.” Cecil said pleasantly. He turned to Julian, “Lord Fallbridge, perhaps I should stay here with Robert.”
“Your place is at your own home with your wife and child.” Julian shook his head. “I really don’t know what’s gone on here since we arrived, but I can’t help but feel a sense of dread—greater than the usual sense of dread I feel on a daily basis.” Julian sighed. “Am I correct in my assumption that your family is in danger?”
“Our family. You are.” Cecil nodded. “I shall tell you all of the details.”
“Not now.” Julian shook his head. “However, don’t you agree that you should be present in your own home?”
“I do, however, I can’t very well leave you here. You’re not well yourself.”
“I don’t mean to offend you, Lord Fallbridge.”
“Please, call me Julian. No, you didn’t offend me. I understand your concern. However, I don’t think we need to fear anything. My other…” Julian paused. “I don’t know what to call him…”
“Mr. Punch.” Cecil shrugged. “He’s a distinct entity unto himself.”
“Yes.” Julian nodded. “You’ve been around him for all the time we’ve been here. I believe that should he take control again that he’s perfectly capable of handling himself and whatever situations might arise.”
“I know that he is. He’s a perfectly lovely…” Cecil shrugged again. “Individual? If one can call him an ‘individual.’ Adrienne and our child, Fuller, absolutely adore him. I’d trust him with my life—and have.”
“So, we have no need to be concerned.” Julian nodded firmly.
“I’m only thinking of your privacy. I don’t want people to be suspicious and, well, frankly judge you harshly.”
“I appreciate your concern for my well-being, but oddly enough, I don’t really care what people think of me.” Julian smiled.
“That’s the way to do it,” Robert coughed, squeezing Julian’s hand slightly.
Julian laughed. “Whatever risks I might be taking are certainly worth it to make sure that our Robert recovers quickly.”
“You’re just as stubborn as Mr. Punch.” Cecil grinned. “I like you already.”
“Thank you.” Julian blushed. “I’m not quite sure where this stubborn streak has come from.”
“It suits you.” Cecil said. “Now, I’d best go check on Adrienne. Surely by now Carling Rittenhouse has crumpled into a sobbing heap. I’ll return.”
“Anything I can do right now for ya?” Marjani asked.
“There is one thing.” Julian nodded, “if you wouldn’t mind. My man, Naasir…”
“Brother to Cephas. I know Cephas. He’s so proud of his world-travelin’ brother.”
“Yes.” Julian grinned. “I’m not quite sure where Naasir is, but we most assuredly could use his help.”
“I’ll go an’ get him if you like. He’s just over to Mr. Halifax’s place, I’m sure.” Marjani said quickly.
“Would you mind?” Julian asked.
“Now, what do you think?” Marjani chuckled. “You just stay here with this nice man and keep him quiet. I’ll be back in the tick tock of a clock.”
“Thank you, Marjani.” Julian said sincerely.
“Anythin’ for the Great Man of the Rocks.” Marjani winked.
“You…” Julian’s eyes widened.
“Like I done said, we been expectin’ ya.” Marjani winked again.
Alone with Robert, Julian felt the man’s forehead and sighed. “I’ve been gone for quite awhile, haven’t I?”
Robert nodded weakly.
“I must confess, I have no idea what’s going on on.” Julian said softly.
“You’ll find out.” Robert rasped. “There is one thing…” Robert began, but his voice caught in his throat and his body rocked with another wave of coughing.
Before Robert could continue, the door to the room opened slowly.
Julian looked up to see who had entered.
His eyes widened and he gasped. “Barbara…”
Lady Barbara entered—still dressed as a maid, still wearing the blonde wig.
“You seem surprised.” Barbara growled.
“Shouldn’t I be?” Julian asked.
“After the way you spoke to me earlier, I should expect you’d be shocked that I’d return.” Barbara hissed.
Julian frowned and shook his head. “Of course.”
From deep within him, Julian heard a familiar voice. “Master, let me deal with this one. She’s not good enough to talk to ya, she ain’t. Said she wanted to make me chum disappear. Master, I can make her disappear. Easy, it’d be. Easy. I’ll make ya proud, I will.”
“Very well, Mr. Punch.” Julian said aloud.
Did you miss Chapters 1-63? If so, you can read them here.