Adrienne hummed softly as she cradled Fuller—rocking gently in the chair next to his crib. Cecil stretched out in the window seat and looked adoringly at his wife and child. How peaceful the scene seemed. Cecil glanced quickly at the setting sun which cast an orange glow through the window. He sighed. If only everything was really as peaceful as it seemed at that moment…
“I wonder how Robert is doing.” Adrienne said quietly.
“The last we heard from Gamilla was that Marjani had reported him much improved.” Cecil answered. “We’ll visit in the morning.”
“Mr. Punch is certainly loyal, isn’t he?” Adrienne smiled.
Fuller’s eyes widened at the mention of Mr. Punch. The baby cooed.
“Ah, what is this, little man?” Adrienne giggled. “Do you miss your Uncle Punch? Not to fear, he’’ll be back. He’s only up the red hill. He’ll be here soon enough to play with you.”
The child rested his head on Adrienne’s shoulder and sighed contentedly.
“You know Marjani brought them a dog?” Cecil smiled.
“That’s what Gamilla told me.” Adrienne chuckled softly. “I imagine that our Punch is thrilled with that.”
“I wonder if Lord Fallbridge likes dogs, too, or if it will be something of a shock when he wakes up one moment to find himself cuddling a pup.” Cecil smiled.
“Of course he likes dogs.” Adrienne grinned. “Don’t all you Englishmen like dogs?”
“We do.” Cecil laughed. “You’re correct.”
Adrienne stroked the baby’s back. “I think he’s ready to sleep now.”
“And, why shouldn’t he be?” Cecil winked. “He knows he’s safe and warm.”
“All children should know that.” Adrienne sighed.
“You’re thinking of Holt.” Cecil murmured.
“I am.” Adrienne frowned. “That baby doesn’t have a chance at a happy life in that house.”
Cecil rubbed his jaw and felt the bruise that Edward Cage had left behind. “I know.”
“Cecil…” Adrienne began.
Cecil held up his hand to silence his wife. “You don’t have to say it. I’m in agreement with you.”
“But, how will we free him?” Adrienne whispered as she lifted Fuller and placed him in his crib.
“Just leave that to me.” Cecil replied lovingly.
“Cecil?” Adrienne raised an eyebrow at her husband.
“Don’t think of it anymore tonight, my dear.” Cecil said reassuringly. He rose and put his arm around his wife. “You know,” he began, “it looks as if it will be a clear, crisp evening. I think I’ll take a stroll.”
“Where?” Adrienne asked suspiciously.
“Perhaps I will go to see Robert now, after all. Surely, Mrs. Rittenhouse won’t mind a visitor if I don’t stay too late.”
“Well, then, I’ll go with you.” Adrienne said. “Gamilla can watch Fuller while he sleeps.”
“I’d like that.” Cecil answered quickly. “However, I think, given the rather uncomfortable situation we’re in, perhaps you should stay here. Chidi’s watching the property, but I’d feel better knowing you were with our son.”
“What are you going to do?” Adrienne whispered.
“I’m going to take a stroll.” He kissed his wife on the forehead. “I shan’t be long.”
“Cecil…” Adrienne began again.
“Darling.” Cecil shook his head.
“Return to me quickly.” Adrienne said firmly.
“I shall.” Cecil grinned. “And, perhaps, I’ll have a surprise for you. I love you, Adrienne”
“I love you, too, my dear.”
With that, Cecil walked from the room. He paused for a moment in the corridor and patted the pocket of his jacket. There, he felt the cold hardness of the pistol. He cleared his throat and headed for the stairs.
Meanwhile, at the Rittenhouse Mansion, Robert was sitting up in bed eating broth from the silver tray Marjani had brought him earlier.
“Mr. Punch,” Robert said—his voice becoming clearer. “You’d best eat your dinner before it gets cold.”
Mr. Punch looked up from where he lay on the floor—Toby, the terrier sitting atop Julian’s stomach. “Can’t.” Mr. Punch grinned. “Toby’s sittin’ on me, he is. Can’t move.”
“You can move.” Robert laughed. “You just don’t want to.”
“Maybe.” Mr. Punch cooed. “Like this thing, I do.” The dog tapped Mr. Punch with a paw.
“I think he likes you, too.” Robert chuckled.
“Ought to have somethin’ to play with.” Mr. Punch said.
“He’s got you.” Robert smiled.
“No, no.” Mr. Punch answered. “Some kind of doll or somethin’. Somethin’ soft like what Fuller’s got.”
“You’re proposing that we get a doll for the dog?” Robert laughed.
“And, why not?” Mr. Punch responded. “Dogs like soft things, too, I’d guess.”
“I think he’s perfectly content chewing on you.” Robert grinned.
“Here, when we go back to England, can we take Toby with us? He’s our dog, he is. He knows we’re gonna love him and give him the things what he needs to be a happy dog. Wouldn’t do to just leave him.”
“I think we can take him home with us.” Robert nodded. He stopped for a moment and thought to himself. “Home with us? Us? Home with who? Me and Julian and Mr. Punch?” He shook his head and chuckled to himself.
“Whatcha thinkin’ ‘bout?” Mr. Punch asked.
“Just about going home.”
“Ah.” Punch grunted.
Marjani knocked on the door and entered.
“Here, look, Toby, it’s the lady what brought you here.”
Toby wagged his tail.
“Hello, gents.” Marjani smiled. “It’s time for to take Toby back to my place at Mr. Fontanals.”
“Oh.” Mr. Punch frowned. “He ain’t had no supper yet.”
“Neither have you, I see.” Marjani frowned playfully. “You know how it is. Can’t let Miss Rittenhouse find us with the dog in here. I’ll make sure to give him his supper when I get him to my place.”
“Fine.” Mr. Punch sighed, sitting up.
Marjani placed Toby in his basket.
“See you in the mornin’, four-legged Chum.” Mr. Punch said.
“Mr. Punch, Dr. Halifax,” Marjani smiled. “If you won’t be needin’ me, I got some things that want doin’, this evening over to Mr. Fontanals.”
“I’m doing quite well.” Robert nodded. “We’ve already given Naasir the evening off.”
“I see.” Marjani nodded. “I done made sure one of Miss Rittenhouse’s folk’ll come and take your trays tonight. Now, are you gonna change Mr. Punch’s bandage later?”
“I will.” Robert said.
“After that, straight back in bed with you.” Marjani said sternly.
“Yes, ma’am.” Robert nodded.
“And, you, Mr. Punch. You keep that hand clean—no point in lettin’ it get diseased. And, maybe you oughta sleep in your own bed tonight like a proper gentleman ought to.”
Mr. Punch frowned. “Wanna stay here with me chum.”
Marjani shook her head. “Doctor, you try to talk some sense into this one, will ya?”
“I think it’s rather futile.” Robert smiled.
“Suit yourselves.” She grinned. “I’ll see ya both when the sun comes up.”
“Good night, Marjani.” Robert nodded.
“’Night!” Mr. Punch whooped.
Marjani laughed, shaking her head, as she carried the basket with Toby in it out of the room. She shut the door behind her.
Naasir met her in the passage.
“You ready for this?” She asked Naasir.
“I am prepared to do what is expected of me.” Naasir said plainly.
“Meet me at the stables in half an hour.” Marjani whispered. “Arthur’s there.”
“You got what I tol’ ya to get?”
Naasir pulled a glass tube from his pocket. The tube contained a brilliant red powder.
“Good.” Marjani grinned. “That’s all we need.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-74? If so, you can read them here.