Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 92

Barbara shoved Arthur against the cold brick wall.

“Why’d you want to do that, Pet?” Arthur smirked. “I’m here, ain’t I?”

“Twelve hours late!” Barbara spat. “And, what do you mean that we’ve had a change of plans?”

“I mean that we ain’t goin’ to New Orleans just yet.”

“Yes, we are.” Barbara said firmly. “I’ve promised Iolanthe. She’s expecting me!”

“She’s also expectin’ the diamond. Ain’t she?”

“She is.” Barbara narrowed her eyes. “And when I find it, I’ll give it to her—as promised.”

“How you gonna find it when you’re on your back in New Orleans?” Arthur laughed.

“I’ll come back here and look for it!” Barbara hissed. “You could help me, you know. Instead of carrying on with Ulrika, you could help me by finding the damn thing.”

“Tut, tut.” Arthur clucked his tongue. “Such language from a lady.”

“Listen, you. You’re my husband. We’re in this together.”

“That we are, Pet.” Arthur smiled. “And, I must say that I’m a little hurt that you don’t have more faith in your husband. Don’t you think I’ve been looking for that lovely diamond?”

“No.” Barbara frowned. “I think you’ve been with Ulrika.”

“And what would you say if I told you that I know where it is?”

“You lie. You couldn’t possibly.”

“But, I do.” Arthur winked. “I know exactly where it is. And, what’s more, I aim to get it. So, you just gotta be patient.”

“Patient!” Barbara growled. “What do you think I’ve been all this time? Now, tell me. Where is it?”

“Safe with Ulrika…” Arthur pointed up La Colline Cramoisie to the Rittenhouse Plantation which stood high upon the red hill. “Right there in that house.”

“How?” Barbara’s eyes widened.

“Don’t matter how.” Arthur spat. “Just matters that I know where it is and how to get it.”

“She told you? Ulrika told you that she has the diamond? Why? What does she want?”

“She thinks I’m under her spell, that one. She thinks I’m gonna do whatever it is she wants. Well, let her think it. Once, I get my hands on that rock, we’re off to our future—you and me!”

“What does she want you to do?” Barbara asked.

“Not much.” Arthur grinned. “Only make sure you and your barmy brother are kept forever quiet. But, see, what she don’t realize is that you and me—we’re the real partners. She don’t know that I’m foolin’ her.”

“Forever quiet?” Barbara’s eyes widened.

“Don’t worry, Pet.” Arthur smiled. “We’ve got help.”

Meanwhile at the Halifax house, Mr. Punch sat on the floor with baby Fuller on his lap and Toby curled up next to them.

“Look, little Chum,” Mr. Punch said—wide-eyed—look at all them candles and sparkly things in the tree. Ain’t it, somethin’!”

Fuller gurgled happily and slapped his tiny fists against Julian’s legs. Mr. Punch tried not to flinch. He didn’t mind that the burns still hurt. Holding the baby was worth it.

Adrienne swept past them and sat on the divan. Her shimmering green silk gown fluttered against the floor as she walked.

“I must say, I’m quite fortunate to be surrounded by all of these handsome men.” She smiled at her husband.

“You’re kind, my dear.” Cecil smiled. “My brother is the better looking of the two of us.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Adrienne flirted with her husband. “I prefer a gentleman with a little more meat on his bones.”

“Cecil’s got plenty of meat on his bones.” Robert teased. “And more to come by the smell of that breakfast in there.”

“You could do with a little nourishment, little brother.” Cecil grinned.

Gamilla hurried into the room and cleared her throat. “Beggin’ your pardon, Mrs. Halifax.”

“Gamilla, you should be in the servant’s hall enjoying your Christmas morning. We can tend to ourselves.” Adrienne said sweetly.

“I will, Mrs. Halifax. I jus’ wanted you to know that I can’t find the silver trays nor the coffee set.”

“They must be in the sideboard.” Adrienne smiled.

“No, ma’am.” Gamilla shook her head. “We can’t find them anywhere. And, what’s more, Miss Allen is gone.”

“Miss Allen?” Cecil frowned.

“Barbara.” Gamilla nodded.

“Adrienne, I told you that if we let that woman stay on our property…” Cecil began.

“It’s quite all right, Gamilla.” Adrienne said, holding up her hand. “We’ll worry about it later.”

Gamilla hurried off.

“Adrienne…” Cecil began.

“If Barbara took our silver, we’ll buy more silver. She obviously needs it more than we do.”

“She’s Lady Fallbridge!” Cecil grumbled.

“We will not worry about it on our son’s first Christmas.” Adrienne interrupted him. “It’s also Mr. Punch’s first Christmas. Let’s not forget.”

Cecil took a deep breath. “Very well. However, we shall discuss this later.”

“I have no doubt of that.” Adrienne laughed. “Now, shall we get down to the business of exchanging gifts.”

“Here!” Mr. Punch whooped. “I’m for that.”

“Since Fuller has already received his gifts, I think it’s only proper that Mr. Punch should be the first.”

“Already got a gift, I did.” Mr. Punch beamed, showing off his stickpin.

“And it looks very good on you.” Cecil winked. “But, that’s from Robert. Adrienne and I have something quite special for you.”

From behind the piano, Cecil removed a brightly-colored box which, if it were not covered in festive paper, might have resembled a casket.

“That big thing is for me?” Mr. Punch asked.

“For you and you alone, my dear Punch.” Adrienne said happily. “Cecil and I have been working on it for days.”

Cecil set the box on the floor in front of Mr. Punch.

“Shall we open it, Fuller?” Punch asked the baby who clapped his hands.

Very carefully, Mr. Punch removed the top of the box and stared inside. Tears rose in his eyes.

“I…” Mr. Punch stammered. “I…can’t believe it.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-91? If so, you can read them here.


Darcy said...

It's interesting to see the difference between the way the Halifax family and Julian/Punch are celebrating Christmas and the way that Barbara and Arthur are not. Obviously only one group believes in "peace on earth goodwill to men".

Dashwood said...

That Barbara and Arthur are outside scrapping like animals on Christmas says a lot

Joseph said...

Hello Darcy, yes, there is quite a difference. Barbara had a chance to be a part of the "family Christmas," but, as she does, she went the other route. Perhaps Arthur's behavior will make hr realize that she's made the wrong choice. Or, perhaps it will drive her further down her destructive path. You are correct, those two are not believers in "Peace on Earth."

Joseph said...

"Scrapping like animals" sums it up quite nicely, Dashwood. That's exactly what they're doing. And, they call Julian, "mad."