Marjani pressed a cool, damp cloth against Gamilla’s head. The young woman moaned. “Where am I?”
“You’re in your room, Honey.” Marjani smiled. “Dr. Halifax done carried ya down here himself. Don’t try to talk. You just rest.”
“What happened?” Gamilla croaked.
“You done drank some poison.” Marjani said softly. “The doctor gave you a syrup so that you’d spit it all up. And you did. Your throat’s gonna hurt and you’re gonna be real tired for a few days, but we got the poison out of ya.”
“Who’d want to poison me?” Gamilla began to cry.
“Ain’t nobody wants to poison ya, Honey.” Marjani held Gamilla’s hand. “That poison was meant for Lord Fallbridge. Why anyone’d want to hurt him, I don’t know. He’s a fine man. Fine couple a men, to be true. But, Honey, there’s folk that’ll do anything they can when they got a hunger in ‘em and I think that when good people get in their way, they’re gonna do whatever they want to try to get all they can from ‘em.”
“My throat…” Gamilla whimpered.
“Don’t talk, Honey.” Marjani repeated. “There’s enough talkin’ upstairs already.”
Cecil barged into Adrienne’s room, followed by Mr. Punch and Robert.
“Where’s Nellie?” Cecil barked.
“She’s in her room,” Adrienne said, turning around quickly.
Mr. Punch gasped upon seeing Adrienne in her fancy dress. “Coo!”
Robert was stunned for a moment as well. In the dark wig, the purple gown, the spangles and feathers, and the pale, waxy makeup, Adrienne—at first glance—looked shockingly like Iolanthe Evangeline.
“I know, it is startling, isn’t it?” Adrienne sighed. “I rather frighten myself. But, this is what we wanted. N’cest pas?”
“It is.” Cecil nodded.
“Why do you want Nellie?” Adrienne asked.
“I have some questions for her.” Cecil said.
“Such as?” Adrienne asked nervously.
“Who poisoned the water in Mr. Punch’s room?”
“Dear Punch!” Adrienne gasped. “You’ve not been…”
“No.” Punch shook his head. “But, we coulda been—Robert and me both. Sad to say, it were Gamilla what drank the water.”
“No!” Adrienne shouted. “Where is she?”
“I gave her a Syrup of Ipecac.” Robert said. “We managed to get the poison out of her, but I don’t know exactly what it was or how it will affect her in the long-term. Marjani is with her now.”
“You don’t think that Nellie…” Adrienne said.
“Don’t I?” Cecil asked. “Who else? She’s the only person aside from our family and our trusted staff who has been in this house. She’s been in contact with Ulrika Rittenhouse who is known to have dabbled in potions and strange spiritualism and who is in league with Arthur who we know poisoned Julian and Robert once before. Furthermore, Nellie has spent a good many years with Iolanthe Evangeline whom we all know has a considerable knowledge of poison.”
“She was always so kind to me,” Adrienne shook her head. “I just can’t believe that she’d do such a thing.”
“You don’t want to believe it, darling.” Cecil said, sharply at first, but becoming gentler. “You’re too sweet of spirit to think ill of people.”
“She went to her room. I think seeing me dressed like this was upsetting for her. She seemed distraught.” Adrienne said.
“Most likely, it was guilt that made her distraught.” Cecil spat, heading for the door. “Come along, men.”
“I’d best go with you.” Adrienne said, hurrying after them. “This is too much. And, we need to leave for the ball shortly…” She looked nervously at Mr. Punch. “Poor Gamilla.”
“She’ll be fine, she will.” Mr. Punch smiled. “She’s got lots of folk what’ll help her.”
“True.” Adrienne nodded.
Cecil knocked on Nellie’s door and paused. There was no answer.
“Perhaps she’s gone downstairs.” Adrienne said.
“Or run outta the house, knowin’ she’s in trouble,” Mr. Punch mumbled.
Cecil tried the door handle and found it to be unlocked. Opening the door, he grunted. Even in the dark room, he could see immediately what had happened. The silhouette of Nellie’s body still twitched as it dangled by a noose made from knotted bed sheets which Nellie had looped around the finely carved ceiling beams.
“Robert…” Cecil whispered, “Go to her.”
Robert hurried into the room as Cecil pushed Adrienne away from the door. Not knowing what to do, Mr. Punch raced downstairs in search of Meridian and Marjani.
“What’s happened?” Adrienne asked.
Cecil didn’t answer.
“Cecil!” Adrienne screamed.
“She’s hanged herself, my dear.” Cecil said softly.
Did you miss Chapters 1-134? If so, you can read them here.