Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 86

Just what did you have in mind, then?” Arthur grinned at Ulrika.

“Nothing that you couldn’t do quite easily.” Ulrika tilted her head to one side.

“And, then, you’ll give me the diamond?”

“I didn’t say that.” Ulrika laughed.

“Sure you did. You said that it could be mine if I completed a little ‘task’ for you.”

“Well, not entirely yours. We’d have to share it.” Ulrika stroked Arthur’s shoulder.

“If I’m going to share it with anyone, I’m going to share it with my wife.” Arthur pulled away with Ulrika.

“That’s precisely what I had in mind.” Ulrika winked.

“I don’t understand.” Arthur shook his head.

“Of course you don’t.” Ulrika laughed. “Thank God your arms are stronger than your mind. Let me say it so that you’ll understand, dear, dear Arthur. You will marry me.”

“You could have your pick of any of the gentlemen in this town. What do you want with me? I’m no good to you.”

“Oh, you’re very good to me.” Ulrika cooed.

“Doesn’t matter. I’m already married. Or have you forgotten?”

“When did you become so high-minded?” Ulrika spat. “There are very simple ways to remove yourself from an unwanted wife. You English are famous for them.”

“I can’t believe you.” Arthur shook his head.

“Everyone already thinks she’s dead.” Ulrika smiled. “It’s not as if anyone would look for her.”

“That’s where you’re mistaken,” Arthur chuckled. “She’s up the hill, talkin’ to her barmy brother and the rest o’ ‘em as we speak.”

“She swore to me that she’d remain hidden!” Ulrika shouted.

“Well, I had other plans.” Arthur laughed.

“You betrayed me? People don’t betray me.” Ulrika shoved Arthur backward.

He stumbled into the loose mud of the bayou.

“What’re ya doin’?” He barked.

“What Lord Fallbridge should have done.” Ulrika laughed wildly.

At that very moment, Mr. Punch threw back the blankets on the bed and tried to stand. Robert hurried to him, and covered him up again.

“There, now, let’s at least stay here so that your leg can recover.” Robert said quickly.

“Right.” Punch grunted.

“Julian, I thought you’d be pleased to find me alive.” Barbara feigned hurt feelings.

“Pleased ‘nough, I ‘spose only in that I don’t wish death on nobody. Not anymore.” Mr. Punch grumbled. “Only, it’s no good you comin’ here with your lies and your actin’. Do ya really think we’re not gonna see that you’re the same wicked girl what sold her baby and stole from her brother?” Mr. Punch shook Julian’s head. “Cuz, we ain’t fools, Barbara, me girl. We ain’t. We can see what’s in front of us and what’s in front of us is no good.”

“With Father gone, I realize that you and mother are the only family I have. Julian, I so hoped that we could reunite.”

“Not the only family ya got.” Mr. Punch smiled. “You’re forgettin’ Arthur and your baby.”

“You know I don’t have the baby any longer.” Barbara said, her anger starting to show through.

“I know. That monster told me all ‘bout it, she did.” Mr. Punch frowned. “Told me how she sold your baby—me nephew.” Mr. Punch looked up at Adrienne. “Grateful I am to ya, Adrienne, for givin’ me another nephew to love.”

“And, he loves you, too.” Adrienne smiled.

“You see, Barbara, this fine lady is more of a sister to me and…well, to me than you coulda ever been.”

“What would you have me do, Julian?” Barbara spat, too bothered to continue her charade. “Should I have insisted that Iolanthe not sell the child? It was too late! Once you make a contract with Iolanthe Evangeline, she sees to it that you keep it. And, if you don’t, the people you care about are punished!”

“What did she do to you?” Adrienne asked.

“She’s just tryin’ to make us feel sorry for her, Adrienne,” Mr. Punch shook Julian’s head.

“Mr….” Robert began, correcting himself, “Julian is right, my dear. She’s preying on your sympathies. She’s after something.”

“Just a moment, Gentlemen.” Adrienne said softly. She looked squarely at Barbara. “You tried to get out of it, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Barbara nodded stiffly.

“What did she do?” Adrienne asked.

“She had our father murdered.” Barbara sniffed.

Did you miss Chapters 1-85? If so, you can read them here.


Darcy said...

I think I can believe that Iolanthe Evangeline may have had their father killed, but, I find it hard to believe that Barbara didn't have a hand in it.She seems to be too cold a person to care for anyone but herself.

Joseph Crisalli said...

You're very clever, Darcy. : ) Thanks for coming by and always making such great comments!

Dashwood said...

I agree with Darcy. Evil as she is, it is hard to fathom that Iolanthe could have that much influence in Europe. Or could she?

Joseph Crisalli said...

Well, Iolanthe does have connections in Paris and London which is how she procures young women like Adrienne and Barbara who feel they have no other option. However, lacking a Nineteenth Century social network of high-end madams, Iolanthe's influence is limited. Barbara, on the other hand, would have some good connections in Europe. And, let's not rule out Ulrika Rittenhouse whose father is becoming quite a presence in the gem trade abroad. Mr. Rittenhouse also seeks young artists to import for Edward Cage as well as for his eldest daughter's amusement. There is a social network of sorts at play here, but the question is--who are the players?