Barbara Allen staggered into Miss Iolanthe’s bedchamber and gasped. “Mother!”
“What are you doing in a place like this?” The Duchess moaned.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Barbara replied softly, her speech clearly slurred.
“You’re intoxicated!” The Duchess of Fallbridge spat.
“No.” Barbara shook her head. “I’m not, Mother.”
“Merry Christmas,” Iolanthe grinned to Barbara. “Do you like your present? I brought her all the way from England for you.”
“Why?” Barbara trembled—confused.
“Shouldn’t a mother and child be reunited at Christmas?” Iolanthe laughed. “After all, it’s the least I could do for you. You’ve been so cooperative and loyal.” She added sarcastically.
“What business does my daughter have with you?” Pauline asked.
“She’s an important part of my business.” Iolanthe grinned. “Or will be. I reckon I’ll get a pretty price for such a pretty English girl.”
“You’re not…” The Duchess groaned.
“I am, Mother.” Barbara lowered her head.
“No!” The Duchess of Fallbridge grabbed her daughter by the arm. “Come with me. We’ll return to England at once. We’ll forget all about this.”
“Are you forgettin’ the deal we have, Your Grace?” Iolanthe clucked her tongue. “Not to mention that your daughter and I have an arrangement.”
“I have made no deal with you. I have stood here and listened to your idle threats, but I’ve agreed to nothing. As for any arrangement you may have with my daughter, it’s clearly voided. As of now! I don’t know how you seduced my girl away from me, but it stops this instant!”
“I wasn’t the one who seduced your daughter.” Iolanthe chuckled. “Wasn’t me who gave her that baby.”
“Baby?” Pauline stumbled backward. She put her hands over her face and shrieked. “We’re ruined!”
“Don’t worry.” Iolanthe said cheerfully. “I got rid of the little thing. Made a nice profit, too.”
“You’re horrible!” The Duchess screamed.
“Lookin’ in a mirror, Your Grace.”
“Is this true, Barbara? Did you have a child?” The Duchess growled.
“I did.” Barbara Allen answered, still dazed.
“No matter.” Pauline said, soothing herself. “We’ll forget it happened. You’ll come back and marry the baron and we’ll never speak of this again.”
“I can’t marry the baron,” Barbara stammered.
“Why not?” Pauline demanded.
“I’m already married.” Barbara slurred.
Meanwhile, Ulrika dragged Arthur up the back staircase of the Cages’ New Orleans mansion.
“Where’s Barbara?” Arthur groaned—still under the influence of the foul-smelling root that Ulrika had been giving them throughout their journey.
“Quiet.” Ulrika hissed. “You don’t want to be noticed do you?”
“Where’s Barbara?” Arthur said again, moaning like a child.
“We left her at Iolanthe Evangeline’s. Remember? She knows what she’s supposed to do. She’ll be back.” Ulrika whispered.
“I’m tired.” Arthur whined.
“Just be quiet for a spell. You can rest when we get to my room, but I can’t have you making any more noise. Mrs. Cage doesn’t know you’re here.”
“What are you going to do to me?” Arthur said, trying to pull his hand away from Ulrika.
“Nothing I haven’t done a dozen times before.” Ulrika grasped the man’s hand tightly.
At that very moment, at their borrowed house on Royal Street, Mr. Punch and Robert stopped their chat when they heard the sound of footsteps outside Punch’s chamber door.
“Someone’s out there.” Mr. Punch whispered.
Robert rose and crept quietly to the door, opening it quickly. He was surprised to see his brother—fully dressed, sneaking past.
“What are you doing?” Robert whispered.
“Shhhh…” Cecil said, hurrying into the room and shutting the door behind him.
“Does Adrienne know that you’re up?” Robert asked.
“No.” Cecil said. “And, she won’t. I’ll return before she realizes it.” He withdrew a pistol from his coat.
“What?” Robert shook his head.
“Here, what are you gonna do with that?” Mr. Punch asked.
“I’m going to finish what I started in Marionneaux. I’m going to remove that ogress from our lives once and for all.”
“No.” Robert said quickly. “We have a plan. We need to adhere to what’s already been decided.”
“I can’t wait, Robert.” Cecil said angrily. “Every time I hear a clock chime, I think ‘That’s one more hour that Iolanthe Evangeline lives to torture the people I love.’ I can wait no longer.”
“Use your head, man.” Robert grumbled. “This isn’t the way. I won’t have you out wandering the streets of New Orleans, alone, in the middle of the night, with a pistol!”
“I’ll go with him,” Mr. Punch smiled.
Did you miss Chapters 1-107? If so, you can read them here.